The military defeat at the Battle of Lakhat Mountain is being misrepresented as a religious attack, serving as a cover-up

It is evident that the military and its affiliated channels are disseminating false information to conceal the military’s setback at Lakhat Mountain.

Briefing

In July, clashes erupted between the coup army and revolutionary forces near Myawaddy City in Karen State, particularly at Lakhat Mountain, a strategic military location. The revolutionary forces successfully captured Lakhat Mountain on July 21.

In attempts to regain control of Lakhat Mountain, the military utilized aerial bombardments and heavy artillery but failed to recapture the area for over a month, until the end of August.

During this period, the military employed social media platforms to disseminate fake news and misinformation regarding the Battle of Lakhat Mountain, particularly through Telegram channels. These efforts intensified throughout August, coinciding with the military’s attempts to reclaim the hill.

As part of this propaganda campaign, narratives began to shift, including the introduction of racially motivated attack narratives.

The Red Flag conducted a case study to analyze the spread of fake news related to the Battle of Lakhat Mountain during this period.

The Beginning of the process

Lakhat Mountain, also known as Lakhat Mountain Tower Camp Hill, is strategically positioned at the center of the Myawaddy-Mei Sot trade route, extending up to the Thai-Myanmar border. Military analysts recognize its significance as a location for controlling the border.

Previously under the control of the Karen Border Guard affiliated with the Military, Lakhat Mountain held cultural importance as a pilgrimage site for locals. Following the coup, it was converted into a military base.

On July 21, the KNU/KNLA and PDF forces successfully captured the Lakhat Mountain Tower camp from the long-standing military control. This operation involved the KNLA 6th Brigade and Cobra Column (1) from the PDF, engaging in the Battle of Lakhat Daung Camp Hill against the military forces.

Subsequently, the military launched both aerial and ground offensives, deploying over 100 soldiers, including border guards, in attempts to retake the strategic location. Despite employing significant military force, the army failed to recapture the area, resorting to relentless bombing and ammunition use, as reported by KNU officials to the media in mid-August.

Independent news outlets corroborated these reports, confirming the military’s inability to regain control until the end of August. In response to this defeat, the spread of fake news concerning Lakhat Hill intensified throughout August, aiming to conceal the coup army’s ground defeat through misinformation disseminated via social networks.

Major Bad Actors Who Spread Misinformation:

  • Snow Queen
  • Theingi Nyunt (#TGN)
  • Pha Htee Saw
  • Oo Aung Aung Oo
  • Ko Thet
  • Yan Gyi Aung
  • Athan (ICG)
  • Kyaw Swar
  • Hmaing Wai
  • Truth Media

Stages of Misinformation Dissemination:

  • Initial Military Offensive: The army attempted to recapture Lakhat Mountain, resulting in significant casualties among the PDF members, with many unable to retrieve the bodies of the deceased. Some individuals sought refuge in Thailand.
  • Use of False Images: Pro-military accounts circulated unrelated images, including those of well-known Karen resistance leaders’ burial ceremonies, falsely depicting them as casualties of the Lakhat Mountain battle.
  • Air Strikes and Propaganda: The military conducted airstrikes, and by August 15th, there were reports of efforts to create a narrative portraying the Buddhist presence on Lakhat Mountain as threatened by the Christian KNU and the atheist PDF. Images of damaged Buddha statues were used to support this false narrative.
  • Spread of Fake News: Misinformation about Lakhat Mountain was disseminated through various channels. Some of the key topics included in the false information were circulated to partner news outlets and flagged for information verification departments.

ပေးပို့ခဲ့သည့် အကြောင်းအရာများကို ကောက်နုတ်ဖော်ပြရလျင်-

Findings:

  • Saw Kang Zaung’s account, utilized by the War Council lobbies to disseminate information, could not be located through a search on Facebook.
  • The photo used to fabricate the soldier’s funeral was identified as an image of another Karen soldier, not the individual claimed.
  • Even within the military lobbies, contradictory information was spread regarding the permanent occupation of Lakhat Mountain and the ability to control food distribution by holding the foothills.
  • Misinformation regarding the Battle of Lakhat Mountain was predominantly disseminated through a Telegram channel known as Snow Queen.
  • The Ko Thet channel was identified as the military lobby initiating the propagation of ethnic narratives.
  • Media reports attributed the destruction of temples on Lakhat Mountain to aerial attacks conducted by the army.
  • Despite religious motivations behind the dissemination of false news, the army has not succeeded in retaking Lakhat Mountain on the ground as of September 12th.
  • It is evident that the military and clandestine channels are spreading fake news and concealing information to mask the military’s defeat in Lakhat Mountain.