An envoy for Myanmar’s overthrown government has called on the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to stop a military coup, as police cracked down on anti-junta protesters on Friday with rubber bullets and stun grenades.
The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the army seized power on February 1 and detained government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership after the military complained of fraud in a November election her party won. The election commission said the vote was fair.
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Speaking on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, Myanmar’s UN ambassador appealed to the United Nations on Friday “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people of Myanmar”.
“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people and to restore the democracy,” Kyaw Moe Tun told the 193-member UN General Assembly, receiving applause as he finished.
Myanmar's Permanent Representative to the UN did a very courageous thing by condemning the coup at the UNGA in NY. The International Community must listen to his request. pic.twitter.com/Rz7wWvFcIE
— Yanghee Lee (@YangheeLeeSKKU) February 26, 2021
During a special meeting on Myanmar, the envoy called on all member states to issue public statements strongly condemning the coup.
He appealed for countries not to recognise the military government or cooperate with it and asked them to demand that the military respects last year’s democratic elections.
Kyaw Moe Tun also urged nations to “take all stronger possible measures” to stop violent acts committed by security forces against peaceful demonstrators.
“We will continue to fight for a government, which is, of the people by the people, for the people,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the United Nations headquarters, said it was “exceedingly rare for an ambassador to the United Nations to speak out against events in their own country”, the only country previously doing so being Libya.
“This may well spur some members of the General Assembly to take a slightly tougher position. The General Assembly doesn’t have real teeth but it certainly amplifies a message and may well also give a little bit of a prod to the other key organ of the United Nations, the one that does have the teeth – the United Nations Security Council,” Bays said.
“The place to watch is China, which of course is a permanent member of the UNSC. Perhaps what we’ve seen today in the General Assembly might force China to take a little bit of a stronger stand on this.”
Meanwhile, the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, pushed the world body for a collective “clear signal in support of democracy” and told the General Assembly no country should recognise or legitimise the military rulers.
“There is no justification for the military’s actions, and we must continue to call for the reversal of this impermissible situation, exhausting all collective and bilateral channels to restore Myanmar’s path on democratic reform,” she told the General Assembly via video link.
The diplomat said she had been blocked from visiting Myanmar by the military.
“It seems they want to continue making large-scale arrests. This is cruel and inhumane,” she said.”If there is any escalation in terms of military brutality – and sadly, as we have seen this before in Myanmar – against people exercising their basic rights, let us act swiftly and collectively,” Burgener added.
Uncertainty grew over Aung San Suu Kyi’s status on Friday as the independent Myanmar Now website quoted senior officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.
Protesters who have taken to the streets daily for more than three weeks demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and recognition of last year’s election results.
Protests broken up
In the country’s biggest city, Yangon, riot police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and shots into the air to send protesters scattering. At least one person was wounded there, a witness told the news agency Reuters.
Several people were arrested, witnesses said, among them a Japanese journalist who was held briefly.
Domestic media and witnesses reported a similar confrontation in Mandalay where police also fired rubber bullets.
An emergency service worker said children were hurt there and the media published pictures of two with minor injuries, as well as of one man with a bloody leg wound. It was not clear how they were hurt.
Police also broke up protests in the capital, Naypyidaw, the central town of Magwe and in the western hill town of Hakha, according to witnesses and social media posts.
Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing said authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died. The army said a policeman was also killed.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s whereabouts unknown
Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained incommunicado in Naypyidaw since the coup.
The Myanmar Now website said she had been moved from her home in the capital, quoting a senior NLD source as saying: “We don’t know where she’s being kept any more.”
A lawyer for her, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he had heard the same from NLD officials but could not confirm it.
Zaw earlier complained he was not able to prepare properly for her next hearing, on Monday, because he had no access.
“I need instructions from her on how to conduct our defence at the court … I’m concerned that there will be a loss of rights to access to justice and access to legal counsel,” he said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during previous military governments. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.