In an unprecedented move, U Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, defended the country’s elected civilian government overthrown by the Feb. 1 coup, denouncing the regime and asking for the international community’s help to restore democracy.
The ambassador’s speech on Friday brought hope to millions of citizens who are opposing the regime and demanding the restoration of the democratically elected government. He received rousing applause from the General Assembly and his speech was wholeheartedly welcomed by protesters at home.
U Aung Myo Min, the director of Equality Myanmar and a long-time human rights advocate, told The Irrawaddy: “This represents the civil disobedience movement [of striking civil servants] at the diplomatic stage and the UN level, as he clearly stands up for the elected government and rejects the regime.”
U Aung Myo Min said the ambassador spoke for the Committee Representing the Union Parliament, known as the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), to draw attention from the international community.
“I could not believe I was hearing such a strong, committed speech at first. It took courage and his address really cheered up the people who are taking part in the civil disobedience movement and anti-regime demonstrations,” he said.
This was “unprecedented” and the first time in UN history that a country’s representative has stood up against the authorities in power in their country and chosen to reflect the voices of the millions of voters, said U Aung Myo Min.
U Kyaw Moe Tun asked the 193-member UN General Assembly “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military”.
Christine Schraner Burgener, a UN special envoy to Myanmar, urged no country to recognize or legitimize the junta at the informal General Assembly meeting on Friday.
U Kyaw Moe Tun read out a CRPH statement, which was formed three weeks ago with elected members from the November election.
Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least six people in Naypyitaw, Yangon and Mandalay. They have violently detained hundreds of protesters, including students and reporters, and injured numerous demonstrators.
“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 democracy,” said U Kyaw Moe Tun, in a voice quivering with emotion.
At first, the ambassador’s remarks appeared to have left the audience shocked. U Aung Myo Min said expectations for the speech were low as on Feb. 12 another ambassador to the UN, U Myint Thu, defended the regime.
U Kyaw Moe Tun concluded in Burmese with, “the revolution must succeed” and a three-figure salute, which is used by protesters opposing the regime.
He asked protesters “to keep on fighting” and acknowledged their efforts to fight the military dictatorship, calling for all detainees to be released.
From 2016 to 2018, U Kyaw Moe Tun was director-general for International Organizations and Economic Development at Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Between 1993 and 2015 he held a range of government positions as well as diplomatic posts in Indonesia, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.
Many social media users thanked the ambassador for his stand and for voicing the people’s demands.
U Kyaw Moe Tun said he talked to the CRPH and agreed to speak for the elected members at the UN.
This week the CRPH chose Dr. Sasa, a medic, to represent them at the UN level, but his mandate is limited to lobbying outside formal UN meetings.
The military seized power from the democratically elected government, citing its claims of electoral fraud and declared a state of emergency. They detained the civilian leaders and have brought charges against them.
The UN and many countries have condemned the military’s action and urged it to reinstate the civilian government.
Burgener said: “The will of Myanmar people must be upheld” as the National League for Democracy won a landslide in the election with 83 percent of the vote.
“There is no justification for the military’s actions and we must continue to call for the reversal of this impermissible situation, exhausting all collective and bilateral channels to restore Myanmar’s path on democratic reform.”
The Swiss special envoy had several calls with the regime’s deputy chief this month, echoing international and UN concerns and asked to visit Myanmar on the condition she can meet the detained leaders.
“Regrettably, the current regime has so far asked me to postpone any visit. It seems they want to continue making large-scale arrests and have been coercing people to testify against the NLD government. This is cruel and inhumane.”
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