Myanmar ambassador’s night in a car presents a problem for the UK

The British government, under diplomatic protocol, cannot pick and choose who other states appoint as their envoy

Kim Sengupta
Diplomatic Editor
Thursday 08 April 2021 19:58 BST
Related video: Myanmar envoy to London says military seized embassy in ‘coup’
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Following a night spent in his car after being locked out of his embassy in London, Myanmar’s ambassador has urged the British government to live up to its declarations on upholding universal democratic values and stand by him. 

Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn requested the Foreign Office to act against the “coup in central London” just as it had condemned the one in Myanmar.

He asked that his deputy, who has taken over the building, should not be recognised as his replacement and be expelled instead, along with other supporters of the military junta which seized power. 

The request from the ambassador poses an awkward problem for Britain.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary on a visit to countries in the Far East, tweeted: “We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage.

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“The UK continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence, and a swift restoration of democracy.”

This was followed by widespread praise in social media by opponents of the military regime who interpreted the message as the UK rebuffing the attempt to remove the ambassador.

One, typical, tweet said: “Thank you for your support and we expect you to support till the end of this matter. Thanks again.”

Another stated: “Democracy in Myanmar will be forever grateful to its friends.” 

But the British government, under diplomatic protocol, cannot in theory pick and choose who other states appoint as their envoy. 

The Foreign Office has received a letter from the embassy saying that ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn was removed from his post on 9 March and deputy ambassador Chit Win has taken over as charge d’affaires. 

The junta fired the country’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, following the coup in February after he urged the UN General Assembly to use “any means necessary” to ensure that  Aung San Suu Kyi remains the rightful leader in the eyes of the international community. 

On that occasion, Kyaw Moe Tun remained as ambassador after his deputy, Tin Maung Naing, whom the regime had earmarked as his replacement, resigned instead and the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, called on countries not to  recognise or legitimise the junta. 

Demonstrators hold banners outside the Myanmar embassy in London on Thursday
Demonstrators hold banners outside the Myanmar embassy in London on Thursday (AP)

In London a spokesman for ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn said: “The ambassador has been recalled by the Myanmar military regime – since then he has stopped following instructions from the Myanmar foreign ministry.

“We believe the UK government would not back those who are working for the military junta and we also would like to urge the UK government to send them back.

“There has been a coup in Myanmar in February and now the same situation in central London. This is unacceptable and disrespectful not only to the people of Myanmar but it is also clearly disrespectful to all of democratic society in the UK.”

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