Feb 27 (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.
The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Myanmar’s streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
More protests were planned for Saturday, activists said, and police were out in force in parts of the main city of Yangon.
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”.
“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,” he told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly, receiving applause as he finished.
Kyaw Moe Tun appeared emotional as he read the statement on behalf of a group of elected politicians that he said represented the legitimate government.
Delivering his final words in Burmese, the 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 and flooded social media with messages of thanks.
“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 United Nations for a collective “clear signal in support of democracy” and told the General Assembly no country should recognise or legitimise the junta.
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.
Singapore said violence against unarmed civilians was inexcusable.
SUU KYI’S WHEREABOUTS UNCERTAIN
Uncertainty grew over Suu Kyi’s whereabouts on Friday, as the independent Myanmar Now website quoted officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.
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 have taken to the streets daily for over three weeks demanding the release of Suu Kyi, 75, and recognition of the result of last year’s election.
In Yangon, riot police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and shots into the air on Friday to send protesters scattering. At least one person was wounded there, a witness said.
Several people were also hurt by police in the second city of Mandalay, media said. Police also broke up protests in Naypyitaw and other towns, 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 771 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 centre 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 soon, regional diplomats said. (Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Richard Pullin)