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Radio Free Asia

UK Offers Shelter to Deposed Myanmar Ambassador After Junta Loyalists Seize Embassy

2021-04-09 -- The British government has offered shelter to Myanmar's former ambassador in London, after he was ousted by diplomats loyal to the military junta that seized control of the country's embassy this week, British foreign affairs officials said.

Kyaw Zwar Minn, who had been outspoken against the Feb. 1 military takeover in Myanmar, was recalled by the military regime last month after he called for deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

On Wednesday, defense attaché Col. Soe Aung and at least two other diplomats seized control over the embassy in London's posh Mayfair neighborhood, locking the ambassador out in what he called "a kind of coup" reminiscent of the junta's seizure of power in Naypyidaw.

"We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab saying on Twitter. "The UK continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence and a swift restoration of democracy."

Kyaw Zwar Minn on Thursday met with Nigel Adams, the foreign office minister for Asia, after the British government informed him they could no longer recognize him as ambassador once the junta had recalled him.

"We will support him to ensure his safety and security in the United Kingdom," Adams said on Twitter.

"Given the bullying behavior towards Mr. Minn, we are seeking to ensure he can live safely in the United Kingdom, while he decides his long-term future," a foreign office spokesperson said on Twitter.

Barbar, a London-based Burmese activist described to RFA's Myanmar Service how the embassy takeover unfolded.

"While the ambassador was out, some people from the military attaché's office came to knock on the door of the building. When a staff member opened the door, they pushed him in, locked the main door and told everyone to stay inside,"

"A staff member sent a text message to the ambassador and he returned. But he was locked outside, so he sent messages to his friends among the Burmese community," Barbar said.

Barbar said the ex-ambassador told him there were three diplomats that took control of the embassy, but he did not know if they were armed.

Min Hein, another London-based Burmese activist, told RFA he was near the ex-ambassador on the street in front of the embassy as his supporters gathered in front of the embassy to protest.

"All the young Burmese people are here in front of the embassy and the ambassador is in his car. What I heard is that the ambassador left to go home after work, and soon after that the military attaché and a senior staff member called Kyi Win went into the building and locked the door from the inside," Min Hein said.

Min Hein confirmed the identities of the diplomats who took over the embassy.

"There are at least three of them, the military attaché, Col. Soe Aung, Minister Counselor Kyi Win and Third Secretary Ye Lin Aung," Min Hein said.

He said none of the embassy staff supported Myanmar's Civil Disobedience Movement, a mass movement opposing the military junta with labor strikes by civilservants and daily street protests.

"They didn't seem to be happy about the ambassador calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi."

Kyaw Zwar Minn is a former colonel who served in Myanmar's military for 30 years. He is one of a number of high-profile diplomats who spoke out against the Feb. 1 coup, a group that includes Myanmar's ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, who was fired by the regime but continues to represent the country at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The death toll from nine weeks of protests that have been met with repression and gunfire has surpassed 600 and was expected to rise as anti-junta activists carry out rallies across the country of 54 million people. Myanmar was ruled as a British colony known as Burma from 1824 to 1948.

Reported by Khet Mar for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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