Mini-coup in London? Myanmar military attache seizes embassy, locks out ambassador

Still image from video streamed online outside the embassy early Thursday morning, Myanmar time. Image: July Myat Tun / Facebook
Still image from video streamed online outside the embassy early Thursday morning, Myanmar time. Image: July Myat Tun / Facebook

Note: After this story was published, and after the UK Foreign Secretary raised his objections to the embassy takeover, the UK Foreign Office did a complete 180 and said it would remove ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn and recognize junta-backer Chit Win as the Myanmar’s top diplomatic envoy, stating “we must accept the decision taken by the Myanmar Government regarding Kyaw Zwar Minn’s position.”

In a bizarre series of events in London, Myanmar’s ambassador was locked out of his own embassy Wednesday by his military attaches who had seized control of the grounds.

Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Min, who had come out against the coup back home, said he was alerted to the situation by his staff, who were being held against their will inside the building. Since yesterday, no one has been in or out of the compound, creating what amounts to a bizarre diplomatic standoff.

“They cannot act this unfairly,” he said on Facebook live, which showed him standing outside the embassy by his car and addressing a small group of protesters. “They’ve already gone in. While I was outside, they forced themselves in. We need to open this door.”

He was alerted of the situation by members of his staff who were held inside the building. No one has been in or out of the embassy in a bizarre diplomatic stand-off.

Kyaw Zwar Min rallied Myanmar people in London to come out in force at the embassy to oppose what he described as the illegal takeover of the embassy.

A small group of protestors and police had begun to gather outside the embassy, which is close to both Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, at about 6:30pm London time.

The ambassador’s deputy, Chit Win, has taken over as charge d’affaires with help from the mission’s military attache, according to a statement released by the embassy in London shortly after the takeover.

“The military have no right to take over the embassy. The British government should not recognise any diplomats appointed by the military dictatorship,” Mark Farmaner, Burma Campaign UK Director told Coconuts Yangon.

Protestors and news media were still present outside of the Myanmar embassy late Wednesday night.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, tweeted out Thursday morning condemning the embassy take-over, calling it “bullying.”

 

Kyaw Zwar Min, a former military colonel, was recalled by Myanmar’s military regime after he spoke out against the Feb. 1 coup and demanded the release of the nation’s elected leaders.

However, the ambassador has said he is firmly on the “middle ground” and does not publicly support the Civil Disobedience Movement or provisional government known as the CRPH.

“The ambassador was repeatedly urged to back the [movement] and join the CRPH but refused to do so. The ambassador was trying to sit on the fence not backing the military coup or the CRPH,” Farmaner added.

The UK last month sanctioned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., a Myanmar military conglomerate, for its “involvement in serious human rights violations against the Rohingya and its association with senior military figures,” according to a Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement.

In March the UK also sanctioned nine military leaders, including Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, for their role in the brutal crackdowns against peaceful protesters following the coup which has now killed more than 600.

In unrelated but equally bizarre news, the embassy’s official Facebook page shared two videos of Kelly Clarkson’s 2011 hit “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.”

 

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CITY: YANGONCATEGORY: NEWS

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