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False: This photo of alleged Myanmar ‘tank woman’ is digitally manipulated


(Editor's note: this article is first published at Annie Lab, a fact-checking project by Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong and Asian Network of News and Information Educators (ANNIE), and was written by Cherry Lai and Purple Romero.)

 A picture showing a woman with a sword in her hand standing in front of a tank was posted on Facebook and Twitter on Feb. 15 with captions describing it as a Myanmar version of the “Tank Man.”

The comments draw a parallel between the image and the well-known photo of a defiant man in front of a military tank taken at the Tiananmen Square on Jun. 5, 1989, a day after the Chinese government suppressed student-led protests.

Together, the social media posts had over a thousand engagements and hundreds of retweets. The same claim was also re-shared in English-language social media posts (for example, this). The same picture was also posted in this news article on WeChat about the ongoing protest in Myanmar but without any reference to the Tank Man photo.

However, the image is a composite of two unrelated photos taken at different times and locations.

Image search online using keywords like “Myanmar tank” led to this photo (or here) of the tank posted by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a non-profit media organization on Feb. 14.

The image is a still frame of a live streaming video in which the tank can be seen at around 1:50.

A screenshot from DVB Facebook live streaming video.

Screenshots of the same tank from the DVB video clip were also published by the Associated Press (here and here).

Below is a comparison among the manipulated image, the still image on DVB’s Facebook page, and the screenshots posted by the AP.

The same row of trees and same military tank can be seen in the altered image (middle), the original photo from the DVB (top) and another image from DVB used by the AP (bottom) taken at the same scene.

All the images contain the red and yellow insignia of Myanmar’s Armoured Operation Command in the military, which can be seen on the right side of the tank plus a background with a concrete post and an array of trees.

Using InVid verification plug-in, Annie Lab magnified the part of the tank with the insignia and compared it with the screenshot of the insignia of the Armoured Operation Command of Myanmar.

The red and yellow sign on the front of the tank (top) matches the insignia of Myanmar’s Armoured Operation Command in the military.

According to Aung Naing Se, a freelance journalist in Myanmar, the text on the tank shows “some words and alphabet” which indicate it is a “military-registered vehicle.”

The woman with a sword, on the other hand, appeared in a photo posted on this Facebook page on Dec. 28, 2020, two months before the coup.
The caption on the “Just for Fun” Facebook page tells a joke about how women of certain age groups are compared to different kinds of cars, and how those men who make this joke should run for their lives after saying this to women (presumably who come after them with a sword).

Below is a screenshot of the Facebook post.

The ongoing street protests in Myanmar first erupted on Feb.1 after the military declared a coup over allegations of election fraud in November 2020, where Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party — the National League for Democracy — won by a landslide.

Disclaimer: Although faculty members at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong have done everything possible to verify its accuracy, we cannot guarantee there are no mistakes. If you notice an error or have any questions, please email us at [email protected]


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