Facebook has apologised after translating Chinese President Xi Jinping’s name as “Mr Shithole” during the high-profile visit to Myanmar by the all-powerful leader of the dominant regional power.
Xi was on the final day of his two-day state visit to Myanmar marking the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations. He met State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in a bid to deepen bilateral ties and push ahead with giant infrastructural projects.
The Burmese Facebook post about their meeting translated Xi as “Mr Shithole” in posts shared on the official pages for Suu Kyi and her office.
Social-media users who translated domestic headlines saw news stories like, “Dinner honours President Shithole”.
Facebook, which is heavily used in Myanmar, said: “We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook. This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Facebook said Xi’s name had not been included in the database that translates from Burmese to English.
Translation tests of other words that started with “xi” and “shi” in Burmese were also translated as “shithole”, the social-media giant added.
“We are aware of an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook, and we’re doing everything we can to fix this as quickly as possible,” the firm said.
Burmese protesters gathered in Yangon over the weekend to condemn the controversial Chinese-backed Myitsone dam in northern Myanmar.
The demonstrators called for the termination of the US$3.6 billion mega-dam that would flood huge areas of Kachin State.
The 6-gigawatt hydropower project was suspended in 2011 after nationwide protests.
Xi and Suu Kyi did not reportedly address the stalled dam project.
But they did sign 33 deals bolstering his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
They agreed to hasten the development of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor with agreements on railways between southwestern China and the Indian Ocean, a deep-sea port and special economic zone (SEZ) in Rakhine State, a border SEZ and a new city project in Yangon.
Faster oil and gas supplies were agreed for China and, in exchange, Myanmar was promised development and jobs.
“While a large number of different agreements have been signed, there is no big bang here,” said Richard Horsey of the International Crisis Group in Yangon.
“The overall impression is that Myanmar is being cautious about Chinese investment, especially ahead of the election planned [in November].
“China will be hoping that this is an incremental step toward realising its mega-infrastructure goals, and that further progress can be locked in over the coming months.”
China is Myanmar’s largest investor, trade partner and source of tourists, filling the gap left after the alleged genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State in late 2017 that drove away western investment.
Myanmar looks to China to address its infrastructural shortfalls. Picture credit: Asean Economist