Miami Herald (Sunday)

Myanmar military fires U.N. envoy who spoke against coup

- BY RICHARD C. PADDOCK The New York Times


Myanmar’s month-old military regime fired the country’s ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday, a day after he gave an impassione­d speech to the

U.N. General Assembly in Geneva, pleading for internatio­nal help in restoring democracy to his homeland.

The ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, ended his speech with a three-finger salute, a gesture from the “Hunger Games” films that has become a symbol of pro-democratic defiance for protesters in Myanmar and, before that, in neighborin­g Thailand.

State television announced his firing, saying he had “betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organizati­on which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibi­lities of an ambassador.”

Kyaw Moe Tun’s speech buoyed Myanmar’s prodemocra­cy movement, which has held protests daily since Feb. 1, when the military took control of the country in a coup, and has broadened into a civil disobedien­ce movement with hundreds of thousands of people leaving their jobs.

Kyaw Moe Tun was appointed under the civilian government that had shared power with the military before the coup, and was outside Myanmar when the coup took place.

In his speech before the U.N. he defied the new military rulers and urged the world body “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military” and bring back democracy.

He said he was speaking on behalf of the ousted civilian government, which was headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the morning of the coup.

Before the ambassador’s firing, Antony Blinken, the United States secretary of state, tweeted praise for what he called a “courageous and clear” speech from Kyaw Moe Tun.

“We must all heed their call to restore democracy in Burma,” he said of the protesters, referring to Myanmar by its former name.

On Saturday protests were again held across Myanmar, including in the northweste­rn city of Monywa, where hundreds of people were arrested, witnesses said. The police there opened fire on the crowd and wounded two, according to a volunteer medic.

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, thousands gathered at demonstrat­ions in various locations. The police used tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse crowds and chased protesters through the streets, clubbing and arresting those they could catch.

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