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Myanmar Military Fires U.N. Envoy Who Spoke Against Its Coup | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Myanmar Military Fires U.N. Envoy Who Spoke Against Its Coup

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BANGKOK — Myanmar’s month-old military regime fired the country’s ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday, a day after he gave an impassioned speech to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva, pleading for international help in restoring democracy to his homeland.

The ambassador, U Kyaw Moe Tun, ended his speech with a three-finger salute, a gesture from the “Hunger Games” films that has become a symbol of pro-democratic defiance for protesters in Myanmar and, before that, in neighboring Thailand.

State television announced his firing, saying he had “betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador.”

Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun’s speech buoyed Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement, which has held protests every day since Feb. 1, when the military took control of the country in a coup, and has broadened into a civil disobedience movement with hundreds of thousands of people walking off their jobs.

Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun was appointed under the civilian government that had shared power with the military before the coup, and was outside Myanmar when the coup took place.

In his speech before the U.N. he defied the new military rulers and urged the world body “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military” and bring back democracy.

“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,” he said.

He said he was speaking on behalf of the ousted civilian government, which was headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the morning of the coup.

Before the ambassador’s firing, Antony J. Blinken, the United States secretary of state, tweeted praise for what he called a “courageous and clear” speech from Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun.

“We must all heed their call to restore democracy in Burma,” he said of the protesters, referring to Myanmar by its former name.

In recent days, pro-democracy voices like Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun have been vying with Myanmar’s generals for international recognition.

The junta sent its newly appointed foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin, to Bangkok to meet with Thailand’s foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, and Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, who is spearheading efforts among Southeast Asian nations to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Myanmar.

Ms. Retno also met with ousted members of Myanmar’s Parliament from Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, who had fled to Thailand, and who have been trying to form a government and gain international legitimacy. Ms. Retno called on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.

But on Saturday protests were again held across Myanmar, including in the northwestern city of Monywa, where hundreds of people were arrested, witnesses said. The police there opened fire on the crowd and wounded two, according to a volunteer medic.

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, thousands gathered at demonstrations in various locations. The police used tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse crowds and chased protesters through the streets, clubbing and arresting those they could catch. Some police officers appeared to target journalists and people who were taking video with their phones or livestreaming the events.


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