UK’s Top Diplomat to Myanmar Stranded in Bangkok
By The Irrawaddy 10 May 2022
The senior British diplomatic representative to Myanmar, Pete Vowles, is stranded in Thailand and the regime in Naypyitaw has refused to issue him a visa to enter Myanmar, according to Nikkei Asia.
After London decided to downgrade Vowles’ title from ambassador to chargé d’affaires ad interim, the State Administration Council (SAC), the regime’s governing body, formally notified Britain in late April that it would not accept its designated envoy as chargé d’affaires, but would consider alternative candidates, Nikkei Asia reported.
The British envoy arrived in Myanmar late last year but did not present his credentials to the SAC despite repeated requests from the regime. He was locked out of the country from late February, when he left his Yangon residence for regional consultations and was refused permission to re-enter. His title on social media was amended earlier this year to “Head of British Embassy in Myanmar.”
Last year, the Myanmar ambassador to the UK, U Kyaw Zwar Minn, joined the opposition movement and called for the release of detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He was immediately dismissed by the junta and locked out of the Myanmar Embassy in London by pro-military staff in April 2021. U Kyaw Zwar Minn still lives in an official residence in London; the regime asked the UK government to eject him but it declined to do so. Several months ago, he was reportedly told by London to find alternative accommodation.
Last year, Western embassies in Yangon urged the regime to release detained Myanmar government leaders including President U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and return power to the civilian government that was ousted in the February 2021 coup. Several Western embassies downgraded their diplomatic representation to the chargé d’affaires or “head of mission” level.
The UK has been trying to negotiate Vowles’ return to Myanmar but has so far failed.
The UK held the presidency of the UN Security Council in April but failed to raise the Myanmar issue at the UN, disappointing many.
In the US, U Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, has joined the democracy movement and condemned the coup. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, he urged the international community to use “any means necessary to take action” against the military to help “restore democracy”, saying he was representing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government.
In August, US prosecutors said they had charged two Myanmar citizens over a plot to attack Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun.
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