Myanmar’s ambassador to United Kingdom has accused a military-linked figure of occupying the embassy and barring him from entering the building, in an extraordinary diplomatic standoff a month after the envoy called on the country’s generals to release deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The development on Wednesday evening came as the violence in Myanmar continued, with at least 20 more people killed in the Sagaing and Bago regions, bringing to more than 600 the death toll from the military crackdown on protesters, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
In London, protesters gathered outside the building in the Mayfair neighbourhood with the ambassador, Kyaw Zwar Minn, as reports emerged he had been locked out.
When asked who was inside, he replied: “Defence attache, they occupy my embassy.”
The ambassador told the AFP news agency that he would stay outside the embassy “all night”, explaining “this is my building”.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army removed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1 ignited protests and international condemnation.
So apparently the police can’t enter the embassy as it counts as foreign (Burmese) soil.
They’re telling people to leave or they’ll fine them for breaking Covid regs.
— MiMi Aye (မီးမီးအေး) (@meemalee) April 7, 2021
Kyaw Zwar Minn told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that his colleagues “stormed inside the embassy and took it” after he left the building.
“They said they received instruction from the capital, so they are not going to let me in,” he added, calling on the British government to intervene.
The military government recalled Kyaw Zwar Minn last month after he issued a statement urging them to release Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.
“Diplomacy is the only response and answer to the current impasse,” Kyaw Zwar Minn said at the time.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday condemned the “bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime,” and praised the ambassador’s “courage”.
But it was unclear what, if anything, the UK could do about the move.
We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage. The UK continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence, and a swift restoration of democracy
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) April 8, 2021
Rights abuse dossier
Demonstrations calling for the return of democracy and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi have rocked Myanmar almost daily since the coup.
Civil servants, doctors and other key workers have stopped working as part of a civil disobedience movement aimed at preventing the military from running the country.
In response, the security forces have used rubber-coated bullets and live rounds to break up rallies and detained thousands of activists.
— Wa Lone (@walone4) April 7, 2021
International powers have voiced anger and dismay at the military government’s brutal approach and imposed sanctions on key officials.
But while the United Nations Security Council has condemned civilian deaths, it has stopped short of considering sanctions, with both China and Russia against the move.
And so far, the diplomatic pressure appears to be having little effect on the bloodshed.
A group representing the overthrown civilian government said Wednesday it has gathered 180,000 pieces of evidence showing rights abuses by the military government including torture and extrajudicial killings.
A lawyer for the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) – a group of MPs from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party – met UN investigators on Wednesday to discuss the alleged atrocities.
“This evidence shows widescale abuses of human rights by the military,” the group said in a statement.
They include more than 540 extrajudicial executions, 10 deaths of prisoners in custody, torture, illegal detentions and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protests, the statement said.
Nearly 50 of the dead were children.
With many protesters now in hiding to escape arrest, the military government is increasingly taking their family members hostage, according to AAPP.
‘Destroy the country’
The head of the military authorities, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, insisted they had dealt with the protests “in a democratic way”, in a speech reported on Wednesday by state media.
He accused the protest movement of wanting to “destroy the country” and said only 248 protesters had been killed, along with 16 police officers.
Robert Volterra, a lawyer for the CRPH – which claims the right to speak for the country instead of the military government – held talks with the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar on Wednesday and said further meetings were planned for coming days.
Human rights group Amnesty International last month reported that the military government was using battlefield weapons on unarmed protesters and carrying out premeditated killings orchestrated by their commanding officers.
The growing bloodshed has prompted warnings that Myanmar could slide into a broader civil war.
As well as breaking up protests and making arrests, the security forces have also sought to shut off news of the crisis, throttling internet access and independent media.
In response, some activists have started a daily two-page newsletter called Voice of Spring, rounding up independent media reports and publishing on Twitter.