Myanmar’s UN ambassador has condemned the military coup in his country and appealed for “the strongest possible action from the international community” to restore democracy.
Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun’s dramatic speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday drew loud applause from diplomats from the world body’s 193 nations.
Mr Tun urged all countries to issue public statements strongly condemning the military coup and refuse to recognise the military regime and ask its leaders to respect the free and fair elections in November won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.
“It is time for the military to immediately relinquish power and release those detained,” he said. “We will continue to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Mr Tun’s surprise statement not only drew applause but commendations from speaker after speaker at the assembly meeting including ambassadors representing the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the new US ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield, who joined others in calling it “courageous”.
She said the United States “stands in solidarity” with the people of Myanmar who have taken to the streets protesting against the coup and reiterated President Joe Biden’s warning that “we will show the military their actions have consequences”.
The assembly meeting was called to hear a briefing from the UN special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, who said it is time to “sound the alarm” about the coup, ongoing violations of the constitution and reversal of reforms instituted by Ms Suu Kyi, who was previously the de facto head of government.
She pointed to restrictions on internet and communication services, and the detention of about 700 people according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Myanmar.
The huge protests in the country are not about a fight between Ms Suu Kyi’s party and the military, she said, “it is a people’s fight without arms”.
Addressing diplomats in the General Assembly chamber by video link, Ms Schraner Burgener urged “all of you to collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy in Myanmar”.
The February 1 military takeover in Myanmar shocked the international community and reversed years of slow progress toward democracy.
Ms Suu Kyi’s party would have been installed for a second five-year term that day, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her, President Win Myint and other top members of her government.
Myanmar’s military says it took power because last November’s election was marked by widespread voting irregularities, an assertion that was refuted by the state election commission, whose members have since been replaced by the ruling junta.
The junta has said it will rule for a year under a state of emergency and then hold new polls.