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Myanmar envoy appeals to U.N. to stop coup as police break up protests

Reuters logo Reuters 2/26/2021
a man sitting at a table: Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun holds up three fingers at the end of his speech in New York © Reuters/United Nations TV Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun holds up three fingers at the end of his speech in New York

(Reuters) - Myanmar's U.N. envoy urged the United Nations to use "any means necessary" to stop a military coup there, making a surprise appeal on behalf of the ousted government as police cracked down on anti-junta protesters.

The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the army seized power on Feb. 1 and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party had won.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck: Riot police officers get on a police vehicle during a rally against the military coup, in Yangon © Reuters/STRINGER Riot police officers get on a police vehicle during a rally against the military coup, in Yangon

The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Myanmar's streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.

Myanmar's ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the U.N. General Assembly he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi's government and appealed to the body "to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people."

a group of people walking down the street: Demonstrators rally against the military coup and to show their support to local residents after riot police officers used teargas to disperse a crowd that held a protest the night before in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood © Reuters/STRINGER Demonstrators rally against the military coup and to show their support to local residents after riot police officers used teargas to disperse a crowd that held a protest the night before in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood

"...We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people.. and to restore the democracy," told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, receiving applause as he finished.

Delivering his final words in Burmese Kyaw Moe Tun, a career diplomat, raised the three-finger salute of pro-democracy protesters and announced "our cause will prevail."

Reuters was not immediately able to contact the army for comment.

Opponents of the coup hailed Kyaw Moe Tun as a hero.

"The people will win and the power-obsessed junta will fall," one protest leader, Ei Thinzar Maung, wrote on Facebook.

U.N. special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener pushed the world body for a collective "clear signal in support of democracy" and told the General Assembly no country should recognise or legitimize the junta.

a close up of a hand: A man holds parts of a teargas grenade that riot police officers used to disperse a crowd that held a protest the night before in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood © Reuters/STRINGER A man holds parts of a teargas grenade that riot police officers used to disperse a crowd that held a protest the night before in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood

China's envoy did not criticize the coup and said the situation was Myanmar's "internal affairs", saying it supported diplomacy by Southeast Asian countries which protesters fear could give credibility to the ruling generals.

a group of people walking down the street: Buddhist monks and demonstrators rally against the military coup and to show their support to local residents after riot police officers used teargas to disperse a crowd that held a protest the night before in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood © Reuters/STRINGER Buddhist monks and demonstrators rally against the military coup and to show their support to local residents after riot police officers used teargas to disperse a crowd that held a protest the night before in Yangon's Tamwe neighborhood

SUU KYI'S WHEREABOUTS UNCERTAIN

Uncertainty grew over Suu Kyi's whereabouts on Friday, as the independent Myanmar Now website quoted senior officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.

a group of people riding skis on a snowy road: Riot police officers stand guard during a rally against the military coup at the University of Yangon © Reuters/STRINGER Riot police officers stand guard during a rally against the military coup at the University of Yangon

One lawyer acting for her, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he had heard the same from NLD officials but could not confirm it. Authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyer said he had been given no access to Suu Kyi ahead of her next hearing on Monday, adding: "I'm concerned that there will be a loss of rights to access to justice and access to legal counsel".

Protesters who have taken to the streets daily for over three weeks demand the release of Suu Kyi, 75, and recognition of the result of last year's election.

a man sitting at a table: Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun holds up three fingers at the end of his speech in New York © Reuters/United Nations TV Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun holds up three fingers at the end of his speech in New York

In the biggest city, Yangon, riot police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and shots into the air to send protesters scattering. At least one person was wounded there, a witness said.

a group of people riding skis on top of a car: FILE PHOTO: Riot police walk in the middle of a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon © Reuters/STRINGER FILE PHOTO: Riot police walk in the middle of a street during a protest against the military coup in Yangon

Several people were detained, witnesses said, among them a Japanese journalist who was held briefly.

Several people were also hurt by police in the second city of Mandalay, domestic media and an emergency worker said. Police also broke up protests in Naypyitaw, the central town of Magwe and western hill town of Hakha, witnesses said.

Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing says authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died. The army says a policeman was also killed.

At least 689 people are under detention or have outstanding charges that have been laid against them since the coup, according to Myanmar's Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest under previous juntas. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.

The army has promised an election, but has not given a date. It has imposed a one-year state of emergency.

The question of an election is at the center of a diplomatic effort by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member. Indonesia has taken the lead, but coup opponents fear the efforts could legitimise the junta.

ASEAN foreign ministers are planning to hold a meeting on Myanmar next week, regional diplomats said.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel; Editing by Nick Macfie, Jon Boyle and John Stonestreet)

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