Myanmar’s UN envoy fired after calling for action to end military coup

Woman reportedly killed as police launch sweeping crackdown against protests

Police in Myanmar launched their most sweeping crackdown in three weeks of protests against military rule on Saturday, after the country's United Nations envoy urged the UN to use “any means necessary” to stop the February 1st coup. Video: Reuters

 

Myanmar’s UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has been fired, Myanmar state television said on Saturday, a day after he urged the UN to use “any means necessary” to reverse the February 1st military coup in the country.

Kyaw Moe Tun had told the UN General Assembly as he made the call that he was speaking on behalf of the ousted civilian government of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Announcing the firing, state TV channel MRTV said he had “betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organisation which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador”.

The move came as police in Myanmar on Saturday launched their most sweeping crackdown yet in three weeks of protests against military rule following the coup. The crackdown took place in towns and cities across the country, with media reports of a woman shot to death and dozens of people detained.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

Uncertainty has grown over Ms Suu Kyi’s whereabouts, as the independent Myanmar Now website on Friday quoted officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.

The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions as a result.

Police were out in force in cities and towns from early on Saturday in their most determined bid to stamp out the protests.

In the main city of Yangon, police took up positions at usual protest sites and detained people as they congregated, witnesses said. Several journalists were detained.

Confrontations developed as more people came out to demonstrate despite the police operation.

Three domestic media outlets said a woman was shot and killed in the central town of Monwya. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear and police were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier, a protester in the town said police had fired water cannon as they surrounded a crowd.

“They used water cannon against peaceful protesters – they shouldn’t treat people like that,” Aye Aye Tint told Reuters.

A big crowd of protesters later surged through town streets chanting defiance, an activist video feed showed. One protester told Reuters the crowd was demanding the release of people detained by the security forces.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters had died over days of turmoil up to Saturday. The army says a policeman was killed in earlier violence.

A demonstrator waves a flag on a road during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. Photograph: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA
A demonstrator waves a flag on a road during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. Photograph: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

In Yangon, crowds came out to chant and sing, then scattered into side streets and slipped into buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air, witnesses said.

Barricades

Some protesters threw up barricades across streets. Crowds eventually thinned but police in Yangon were still chasing groups and firing into the air in the late afternoon, witnesses said. Numerous people were seen detained and some beaten through the day.

Similar scenes played out in the city of Mandalay and towns from north to south, witnesses and media said. Among those detained in Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim members of parliament for the NLD, media said.

At the UN General Assembly, Kyaw Moe Tun said he was speaking on behalf of Ms Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for “any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people”.

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup . . . and to restore the democracy,” he said.

Delivering his final words in Burmese, the career diplomat raised the three-finger salute of pro-democracy protesters and announced: “Our cause will prevail.”

UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed as he watched the ambassador’s “act of courage”.

“It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action,” Mr Andrews said on Twitter.

China’s envoy did not criticise the coup and said the situation was an internal Myanmar affair, adding that China supported a diplomatic effort by southeast Asian countries to find a solution.

Nobel peace laureate Ms Suu Kyi (75) spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.

A lawyer for her, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he had also heard that she had been moved from her home in the capital, Naypyitaw, but could not confirm it. Authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyer said he had been given no access to Ms Suu Kyi ahead of her next hearing on Monday and he was concerned about her access to justice and legal counsel. – Reuters