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Myanmar says fake news being spread to destabilize Suu Kyi government

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi gives a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (not pictured) in Brussels, Belgium May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

May 5, 2017

Myanmar's government has warned the public that false news and rumors are being spread by unidentified people wishing to cause "political instability" during the tenure of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, state-run media said on Friday.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi took power in April 2016 as part of a transition from military rule.

Her first year in power has been beset by bureaucratic inertia, ethnic and religious tensions, and conflicts that have displaced tens of thousands, including an estimated 75,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh amid a military crackdown late last year.

Rumors emerged in recent days that President Htin Kyaw - who Suu Kyi picked for head of state - would step down. Suu Kyi directs the civilian administration in the specially created role of state counselor because the constitution - drafted by the still-powerful military - bars her from the presidency.

Police said they would prosecute those responsible for the information, which has spread quickly on online social networks that have grown in popularity amid expanding freedoms and internet access in Myanmar.

"False news regarding the president and the state counselor have been spread on purpose by using accounts with false names," Suu Kyi's office carried in the government's Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Friday.

It named two Facebook accounts that it said had published "fabricated news".

"It has been found that these acts are being done intentionally to cause political instability during the tenure of the incumbent government," Suu Kyi's office said, adding that the perpetrators wished to "create a situation among the people to live in fear and anxiety due to the spread of rumors".

Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe, national police spokesman, told Reuters an investigation was being launched and anyone intentionally spreading false news would be brought to court.

“We will conduct a focused and intensive search for those responsible for this,” Myo Thu Soe said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Wa Lone; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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