Myanmar Diplomat Makes Dramatic Anti-Coup Appeal at UN as Crackdown Deepens
The junta formally nullified leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s November 2020 landslide election victory.
Myanmar’s U.N. envoy from the deposed civilian government made a dramatic appeal on Friday for the world body to “use any means necessary to take action” to restore democracy and ensure the security of the people, while the junta that seized power nearly a month ago nullified the results of the 2020 democratic elections.
Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun addressed the 193-member U.N. General Assembly after Christine Schraner Burgener, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy on Myanmar, said the world had “a collective responsibility towards the people of Myanmar” to help restore democracy in the wake of the Feb. 1 overthrow of Aung San Su Kyi’s elected government over unsubstantiated election fraud claims.
“In addition to the existing support, 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 the democracy,” Kyaw Moe Tun said.
He was reading a statement on behalf of the Committee Representing Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a shadow parliament formed by lawmakers elected in the November 2020 vote that the junta claims was marred by irregularities.
Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, a nonprofit group of lawyers specializing in international law for the purpose of advancing gender equality and human rights, said Kyaw Moe Tun’s appeal must be heeded.
“The world should applaud the bravery of Representative Kyaw Moe Tun for delivering such a powerful statement on behalf of the people of Myanmar, not the illegitimate military junta,” she said in a statement.
“The international community must reward such courage by taking up his call for immediate, decisive action to hold the military accountable,” she said.
Junta sets up new UEC
Kyaw Moe Tun’s appeal came as the junta’s new election commission annulled the Nov. 8 election results after setting up its own electoral authority.
The junta-appointed Union Election Commission held a meeting in Naypyidaw with political parties attended by the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and 52 minor parties, but boycotted by the election-winning National League for Democracy and more than three dozen other parties.
They discussed a new election, which the military regime has pledged it would hold at the end of the yearlong state of emergency declared on Feb. 1, said Thein Soe, the chairman of the UEC appointed by the State Administration Council. He said the fate of those who boycotted the measure will be decided by the Election Law.
“The new UEC’s chairman said the results of the previous election and parliament have been annulled because the State Administration Council holds all three powers of the state,” said Kaung Myint Htut, chairman of the Myanmar National Congress Party, who attended the meeting.
Saw Than Myint, chairman of the Federal Union Party, said he learned from the meeting that authorities in Naypyidaw are re-examining the allegations of election fraud that the military and its affiliated USDP raised for weeks following the November vote that Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won by a landslide.
The military and the USDP ramped up pressure on electoral authorities to investigate, though they did not present any evidence of actual voter fraud.
Saw Than Myint said new election authorities would announce details about who and which parties were responsible for the alleged fraudulent activity and see that they are punished.
Former political prisoner and poet Tin Thit, an elected NLD lawmaker who is now a CRPH member, said no one will accept future election results after the military’s UEC nullified the 2020 results.
He also said he will keep fighting to overthrow the military regime
Political analyst Than Soe Naing said another election in a year is not necessary.
“The people of Myanmar demonstrated their wishes in the 2020 election, so a new election is unnecessary, and the military’s new UEC will not be recognized.”
Shields and batons
Military and police forces, meanwhile, continued their crackdowns on peaceful protesters in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay, and in western Myanmar’s Chin state on Friday.
Security forces used water cannons to disperse anti-military protesters in both Yangon and Mandalay, detaining dozens of people, including reporters.
Anti-junta demonstrators in Yangon chose new routes to avoid confrontations with police in Yangon where protesters at two popular gathering sites were violently dispersed by soldiers and police, who arrested a Japanese reporter, two local journalists, and at least five others. All were later released.
“We were carrying out our peaceful protest, and they arrived with shields and batons,” said a protester at the scene who did not provide his name. “A media man with the word ‘PRESS’ on his chest was taken away. I saw two men running who were hit on the legs and fell down.”
One of the released reporters said police chased down another journalist, hit him, pressed him on the ground after he fell, and handcuffed him. His camera and equipment were broken, he said.
“When they tried to put handcuffs on me, I asked them why they needed to do that because I hadn’t done anything wrong,” the reporter said. “I told them I was just trying to get a news story, so they didn’t put them on me but took me to a prison van.”
Three others, including a journalist, were already in the van, and six youths were later placed in the vehicle, he said.
Police in riot gear also stormed a rally at the intersection of Insein Road and Station Road in Hlaing township, where they appeared to have used smoke bombs and shot into the air to try to break up the crowd, protesters said.
On Sule Pagoda Road, the site of a huge pro-military demonstration on Thursday, there were no police blockades, and a few hundred anti-junta protesters held a sit-in without incident.
Arrests in other areas
In Mandalay, more than 10,000 people, including doctors, engineers, and other civil servants took part in the protests, breaking into small groups when police arrived to avoid confrontations.
Police and soldiers guarded the central railway station, regional high court, and the city’s main thoroughfares where huge crowds rallied in previous days.
Security forces fired shots in two areas of the country’s second-largest city and attacked protesters with slingshots, and nearly 40 people were reportedly arrested.
In the towns of Hakha in Chin state, police fired guns to disperse nearly 2,000 people who were protesting against the junta.
In Lashio, Shan state, young ethnic protesters rallied in front of the U.N.’s local office and asked for help in freeing detainees being held by the regime as well as local officials and district-level election commissioners.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group, said that as of Friday, 771 people had been arrested, charged, or sentenced in relation to the military coup since Feb. 1, with 689 still in detention or have outstanding warrants for their arrest.
The fresh violence followed a police crackdown Thursday evening in Yangon’s Tamwe township, where officers opened fire to disperse the crowd rallying against a new military- appointed township-level administration.
An unnamed resident said that nearly all local residents oppose the appointments of the new administrators, adding, “That’s why they are responding like this.”
Police arrested about 45 people at the scene, said high court lawyer Aung Myo Chit.
“When we went to the police station to make inquiries this morning, the officer on duty said the detainees had been sent to Insein Prison during the night,” he said, referring to a sprawling Yangon jail complex.
Police also hauled away two vendors selling Rakhine rice noodles near the protest site, whose whereabouts are unknown, said Sandar Waing, the daughter of one of the men.
“We don’t know what happened to them, where they were taken, or when they will be released,” she said. “All the detainees seemed to have disappeared into thin air. When we asked here, they told us to go ask there and when we went there, they told us to go ask somewhere else.”
Police also took money from the cash drawer of her father’s noodle shop, Sandar Waing said.
Some reporters covering the event said they had to hide in private houses for nearly an hour to avoid arrest.
In Yangon’s North Dagon township, a temporary ward administrator and his nine-member team appointed by the military administration resigned from their positions on Wednesday because of opposition by local residents.
The CRPH has called for the formation of 11-member civil administration teams in each ward, village or township to oversee administrative matters.
Civil servants threatened
Tens of thousands of civil servants across Myanmar who have joined the three-week-old anti-coup civil disobedience movement face increasing pressure from employers who are threatening to fire and sue them for going on strike to support the protests.
The military council says that civil servants have been coerced and agitated to join the movement by disruptive elements.
More than 24,000 employees from 24 government ministries are taking part in the strikes, according to data collected by groups participating in the movement. The strikes have brought nearly all public health services, education, and railway transportation to a halt.
Health officials have confiscated the medical licenses of physicians participating in the anti-junta movement and have temporarily suspended them from duty, doctors said.
More than 600 social welfare workers from the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population have been taking part in the civil disobedience movement since Feb. 8. Some of them say said they are now facing pressure from their superiors to return to work.
“Notifications calling us back to work have been issued twice now,” said a Social Welfare Department employee in Naypyidaw who declined to be named. “The letters said legal action would be taken against us if we did not come back to work by Feb. 24.”
“We replied that we would return to work only when our legitimate government comes back into power,” the employee said. “We also have been threatened with department inquiries, [and] all of us have received warning letter that step-by-step legal action would be taken against us.”
Some workers have reported that their monthly salaries due on Friday have not been issued and that they have been unable to withdrawal money earned before they began participating in the civil disobedience movement. They said their bosses told them they could get their money only when they returned to work.
Despite the threats, including surveillance and stalking by police, government workers say they will continue participating in the movement.
“I have made a decision to participate in this movement until the very end,” said a physician from the Ministry of Health and Sports.
“I am prepared to sacrifice my 20 years of service and my medical license. I will wait for Mother Suu [Aung San Suu Kyi] to be reinstated. I will not serve under them,” she said, referring to the junta.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.