Myanmar Junta Faces UK Legal Action over Claims to Ambassadorial Home in London

By The Irrawaddy 5 May 2021

A British NGO and a leading UK law firm have launched a legal case against Myanmar’s coup leaders over their claim to the ambassadorial residence and attempts to evict Myanmar’s former ambassador, who opposes the regime.

U Kyaw Zwar Minn, the ex-ambassador to Myanmar, was locked out of his embassy by his deputy, U Chit Win, early last month after criticizing the regime and calling for the release of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since its February coup, Myanmar’s military has killed more than 760 people.

Following the occupation of the embassy, U Kyaw Zwar Minn was asked to leave his ambassador’s residence in Hampstead, north London, by U Chit Win, who is now the chargé d’affaires of the embassy.

Following the embassy row, Myanmar’s regime summoned the ex-ambassador home but he remains in London.

On Tuesday, in a legal case initiated by the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) to challenge the legitimacy of the coup leaders, Peters and Peters Solicitors sent a notice to the chargé d’affaires.

It warned that his attempt to evict the ambassador and take possession of the property was unlawful and U Chit Win has “no authority to ask U Kyaw Zwar Minn to leave the ambassador’s residence or to return the property because it belongs to the Republic of Myanmar”.

“Any attempt to secure access to any part of the property will be reported immediately to the police,” it added.

The letter continues: “You purport to represent the Union of Myanmar and to write on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, our client does not and will not recognise those responsible for the internationally condemned military coup in Myanmar as representing the legitimate government of Myanmar.

The letter also said: “His Excellency will therefore not be vacating the ambassadorial residence … and will resist any possession or other legal proceedings to seek to secure the property or access to it in any way.”

Christopher Gunness of the MAP told The Irrawaddy that the military government was illegitimate and its claim to property, which belongs to the government and people of Myanmar, is unlawful.

Keith Oliver, the head of international at Peters and Peters, acting on behalf of the ambassador, said there has been almost universal condemnation of the coup and the junta has no right to demand control of a home which is legally owned by the republic under English Law.

“Consequentially, we shall firmly resist any unlawful attempt to secure possession of the ambassadorial residence and the matter will fall for determination by the [English] courts.”

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