Britain on Thursday condemned the “harassment” by the Myanmar junta after the country’s ambassador to London was ousted in an extraordinary diplomatic coup after he called for the release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Diplomats loyal to Myanmar’s military authorities took control of the embassy on Wednesday, leaving Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn locked in the street.
The ambassador said Myanmar’s defense attaché had taken over the mission in “a kind of coup”, two months after the military took power in Myanmar.
More protesters were killed
Daily protests demanding the return of democracy have rocked the country and brought about a brutal response by the armed forces, with nearly 600 civilians killed, according to a local monitoring group.
Myanmar security forces have fought to quell protests and a civil disobedience movement aimed at overthrowing the February 1 military coup.
They used rubber bullets and live rounds to disrupt rallies and used night raids to arrest suspected dissidents.
The Association for the Relief of Political Prisoners (AAPP) says about 600 civilians have been killed and nearly 2,900 arrested.
The AAPP said 12 people were killed Wednesday. Local media reports said 11 others were killed Thursday, although AFP has not been able to confirm the figure.
Junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing accused the protesters of wanting to “destroy the country” and said only 248 protesters had been killed, along with 16 police officers.
Actor and heart model arrested
As part of its efforts to suppress the movement, the junta has issued a search warrant for about 120 celebrities accused of inciting protests by giving their support.
On Thursday, the military arrested lead actor, model and heartbreaker Paing Takhon in a dawn raid on his mother’s home in Yangon.
The 24-year-old – a star in both Myanmar and neighboring Thailand – has been active in the protest movement both in person at rallies and through his massive social media following.
In February, he posted pictures of himself in a white tracksuit with a megaphone, tight hat and a fluffy white dog tied to his chest in a protest.
The coup sparked several high-profile diplomatic departures, including the country’s ambassador to the United Nations.
The ambassador’s house is unlikely to overnight
The junta recalled Kyaw Zwar Minn last month after he issued a statement urging them to release Suu Kyi and ousted civilian President Win Myint.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab wrote on Twitter his support for the ambassador, who spent the night in his car outside the embassy.
“We condemn the provocative actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday and pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage,” Raab wrote.
“The United Kingdom continues to call for an end to the coup and the horrific violence and for a speedy restoration of democracy.”
Sources in the UK said that the Myanmar authorities had officially announced the termination of Kyaw Zwar Minn as ambassador and in line with diplomatic policy the government had no choice but to accept him.
Protesters gathered outside the mission Wednesday night with the ousted ambassador, who told the Daily Telegraph that “when I left the embassy, they attacked inside the embassy and took it.”
Asked who had taken over, he replied: “Defense Attaché, they are occupying my embassy.”
According to The Times, the ambassador said the defense attaché had sought to install his former deputy as charge d’affaires.
Myanmar military authorities did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.
International powers have expressed outrage over the junta’s brutal approach, but the UN Security Council has stopped considering sanctions, with China and Russia opposed to the move.
The military has defended its takeover, citing allegations of vote-rigging in the November election that Suu Kyi’s party easily won and says it is responding proportionately to the demonstrations.
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