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Myanmar’s ambassador to UK locked out of London embassy

LONDON, UK:  Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK has said he has been locked out of the London embassy in what he described as another “coup” blaming the country’s military.

Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn, who last month broke ranks with his country’s military junta, said he tried to gain access to the embassy on Wednesday for several hours but was unable to enter. Several of his staff were still inside the building, and were not being allowed out, he said.

Another source said that Myanmar’s military attaché in London had taken control of the building. They added that a group of at least seven people are inside, of which one is a child.

Myanmar’s military seized power in the country on February 1, deposing civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. Non-violent protests against the coup have since broken out across the country, and several Myanmar diplomats posted abroad have also made statements of resistance.

Kyaw Zwar Minn, the UK ambassador, issued a statement last month calling for Suu Kyi’s release from detention and pledged to keep the embassy open, following a call with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

At the time, Raab said in a tweet that he spoke to the ambassador and “praised his courage and patriotism in standing up for what is right.”

The military responded by recalling him. “Since he did not conduct himself in accordance with given responsibilities, an order [is issued] to summon and transfer him back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” MRTV reported.

The source said embassy staffers were all caught by surprise, but that they had anticipated something could happen after the military coup in Myanmar and the ambassador’s statement of defiance toward the junta.

A Facebook live stream on Wednesday showed several people showing their support for Myanmar’s UK ambassador and expressing confusion with the events of the day.

Around 50 people also gathered outside the embassy building in Mayfair, an exclusive part of central London.

Officers from London’s Metropolitan Police were also on the ground, warning people to disperse as they violated coronavirus restrictions.

London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement: “We are aware of a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Mayfair, London. Public order officers are in attendance. There have been no arrests.”

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was “seeking further information following an incident at Myanmar’s embassy in London.”

Myanmar’s military leaders tried in vain in remove another diplomat in March, after UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun called on the international community members to use “any means necessary” to help restore the country’s civilian leadership.

He refused to step down however, a decision that has been supported by the UN.

Myanmar military spokesman Major-General Zaw Min Tun has said the junta plans to hold new elections after a one-year state of emergency.

Britain on Thursday condemned “bullying” by the Myanmar junta after the country’s ambassador to London was ousted in an extraordinary diplomatic coup after calling for the release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Diplomats loyal to the Myanmar military authorities seized control of the embassy on Wednesday, leaving ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn locked out in the street.

The ambassador said the defense attache had taken over the mission in “a kind of coup,” two months after the military seized power in Myanmar.

Daily protests demanding a return of democracy have rocked the country and brought a brutal response from the armed forces, with almost 600 civilians killed according to a local monitoring group.

The coup prompted several high-profile diplomatic defections, including the country’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The junta recalled Kyaw Zwar Minn last month after he issued a statement urging them to release Suu Kyi and deposed civilian President Win Myint.

British foreign minister Dominic Raab tweeted his support for the ambassador.

“We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage,” Raab wrote.

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