Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations has been sacked, state television reported on Saturday, a day after urging the UN to use “all means necessary” to end a military coup.
The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the military seized power on February 1 and arrested civilian head of government Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party, after the army alleged that the elections held in November were fraudulent. The electoral commission considered that the vote was fair.
Kyaw Moe Tun told the UN General Assembly that he was speaking on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government
“We need the strongest possible action on the part of the international community to immediately end the military coup,” he said on Friday.
Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said on Saturday that the ambassador had “betrayed the country and spoke on behalf of an unofficial organization which does not represent the country and which abused the power and responsibilities of a ambassador”.
UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tom Andrews said early on Saturday he had been overwhelmed by the ambassador’s “act of courage”, adding that Twitter, “It is time for the world to answer this courageous call to action.”
The Chinese envoy did not criticize the coup and said the situation was an internal Myanmar affair, adding that Beijing supported a diplomatic effort by Southeast Asian countries to find a solution.
Burmese generals have traditionally ignored diplomatic pressure. Australian company Woodside Petroleum Ltd has said it is reducing its presence in Myanmar over concerns about rights violations and violence.
Tony Cheng of Al Jazeera, Bangkok, said Kyaw Moe Tun’s family in Myanmar “kept their heads down”.
“I spoke to some sources in Yangon today who say the extended family is keeping their heads down but don’t appear to be the target,” he said.
“We know that the Myanmar military has a habit of using families overseas to target people over whom it wishes to exert influence,” he added.
Next steps at the UN unclear
Reporting from the United Nations, James Bays of Al Jazeera said the military’s decision to fire the ambassador could be the start of a long process at the UN.
“The soldiers say they fired him. Does that mean he’s no longer the ambassador here in New York? It’s not entirely clear at this point.
“This could end as a long drawn out affair, assuming the Ambassador wishes to stay in the United States and we assume he will not want to return to Myanmar due to possible retaliation against him.
“If he says he remains and still is the legitimate representative of the real government of Myanmar, whose leaders are currently in prison, then he will go through a complicated procedure in the United Nations General Assembly called the committee.” Credentials, which has nine members on it.
“Currently the United States, Russia and China are among those members, and they will have to decide what to do.”
Growing repression of protests
The coup, which blocked Myanmar’s progress towards democracy, brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets and drew condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
Police were in force in towns and villages by Saturday morning in their most determined effort yet to stamp out the protests.
Police and soldiers fired rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades, and beat protesters at major protest sites in Yangon on Saturday, including near Sule Pagoda in downtown, Myaynigone Township. from Sanchaung and Hledan in Kamayut township.
In downtown Yangon, an Al Jazeera reporter witnessed police charge unarmed and non-violent protesters around noon local time. When the protesters gathered, the police began to use increasingly violent tactics.
Police deployed stun grenades which detonated near a group of civilians and made an arrest. Security forces wielded batons at journalists who attempted to approach and document the arrest.
“People are demonstrating peacefully but they threaten us with weapons,” young activist Shar Yamone told Reuters news agency.
“We are fighting to end this military bullying which goes on for generation after generation,” said Shar Yamone.