Myanmar’s ambassador in London rejects junta

 Myanmar’s ambassador in London rejects junta

Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK has broken with the military junta and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, in the latest rift in the country’s diplomatic service. 

“Diplomacy is the only response and answer to the current impasse,” Kyaw Zwar Minn said on Monday. He added that the embassy would remain open and “we intend to fulfil our bilateral and diplomatic functions on a daily basis”. 

Dominic Raab, UK foreign secretary, commended the ambassador, saying he and Nigel Adams, minister of state for Asia, had spoken with him.

“I praised his courage and patriotism in standing up for what is right,” Raab wrote on Twitter. “We join his call for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and for a return to democratic rule.” 

The diplomat’s defection followed criticism of the coup, which toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, from Myanmar officials at the UN and in Washington. 

Last month, Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, denounced the junta in a speech to the General Assembly, saying he supported the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or CRPH, and flashed the protesters’ three-finger salute. The CRPH was formed by MPs from the formerly ruling National League for Democracy the week of the coup and plans to form an interim government. 

The junta dismissed Kyaw Moe Tun and appointed Tin Maung Naing, his deputy, in his place. However, a UN spokesman said that Tin Maung Naing had resigned and that Kyaw Moe Tun still represented the country.

Myanmar’s embassy in Washington said last week that it was “greatly distressed” by the deaths of civilians taking part in peaceful protests at the hands of security forces, and voiced its “strong opposition and rejection” of the use of lethal force. 

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), more than 60 people have been killed and 1,857 arrested, charged or sentenced since the February 1 coup

Police and soldiers have fired live rounds, rubber bullets and stun grenades into crowds, injuring or killing protesters, including teenagers. On Monday, at least three people died in the northern city of Myitkyina and in the Ayeyarwady region west of Yangon. 

The UN Security Council, Britain and other countries have called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others arrested when General Min Aung Hlaing seized power last month.

A civil disobedience movement has urged civil servants to stay home from work to protest the coup, and trade unions this week called for an extended nationwide strike to shut down the economy.

Worker absence at banks has paralysed the financial system, preventing some employees from receiving their February pay. 

The CRPH last week began appointing “ministers” in what it described as an interim government.

Follow John Reed on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

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