UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab came to the defence of Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK on Thursday after he was sacked by Min Aung Hlaing’s military junta and locked out of his embassy building in London.
Kyaw Zwar Minn, who has criticised the new regime and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, was forced to spend the night in his car after he was shut out of the building on Wednesday and recalled by the junta.
But the UK stopped short of continuing to recognise Kyaw Zwar Minn as Myanmar’s ambassador. A government official confirmed that having received official notification from the Myanmar government that he had been removed from his post in London, Britain had no choice but to accept the decision.
“We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage,” Raab said on Thursday. “The UK continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence, and a swift restoration of democracy.”
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said on Thursday evening that the UK government would continue to support Mr Zwar Minn. “Given the bullying behaviour towards Mr Minn, we are seeking to ensure he can live safely in the United Kingdom, while he decides his long-term future.”
Kyaw Zwar Minn said that his removal had been a “kind of a coup in the middle of London” by the new regime, which is facing international condemnation for its overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and the slaughter of civilians.
“The ambassador has been recalled by the Myanmar military regime,” a spokesperson for the sacked diplomat said on Thursday morning. “Since then he stopped following instructions from the Myanmar foreign ministry and he has been meeting with many diplomatic counterparts and the Myanmar community to discuss the current situation in Myanmar hoping to find a peaceful solution.”
Myanmar’s embassy said on Wednesday that “after completion of the ambassador’s assignment”, Kyaw Zwar Minn had been recalled. It said that Chit Win, the deputy chief of mission, would take his place.
Kyaw Zwar Minn broke with the junta last month, backing Aung San Suu Kyi and the president Win Myint, who are among the nearly 3,000 former elected officials, protesters, and others arrested since the February 1 coup.
Myanmar’s military regime has used live ammunition against protesters and others, killing 598 people, including 48 children, during the same period, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights group.
The diplomatic stand-off comes as a parallel government formed by lawmakers from the deposed administration who are in hiding takes shape and seeks international recognition.
Myanmar’s UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun denounced the coup in a February speech to the general assembly and pledged support to the parallel government. The military dismissed him and charged him with high treason in absentia, but the deputy named to replace him quit.
The diplomat’s sacking, and Raab’s response, highlighted the delicate position faced by Myanmar’s diplomatic partners as they decide whether and how to engage with the military regime or representatives of the deposed government, who point out they are the country’s duly elected rulers.
Richard Horsey, an adviser to the International Crisis Group, said that, while countries were speaking to the latter, “formal recognition as the government is a much more difficult step”.
He added: “Still, it is crucial that states do not extend recognition to the regime, which is illegitimate and has so far failed to complete its coup or secure control of the government bureaucracy.”