NEW YORK (Reuters) – Myanmar’s U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, speaking for the country’s elected civilian government ousted in a military coup on Feb. 1, appealed to the United Nations on Friday “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military” to restore democracy to the Southeast Asian country.
He addressed the 193-member U.N. General Assembly after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, warned that no country should recognize or legitimize the Myanmar junta.
“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,” said Kyaw Moe Tun to applause and praise from Western and Islamic counterparts.
Such an address – at odds with those in power in a country – is rare. Kyaw Moe Tun appeared emotional as he read the statement on behalf of a group of elected politicians that he said represented the country’s legitimate government. He ended with a three-fingered salute used by protesters.
Schraner Burgener pushed for a collective “clear signal in support of democracy” as she sounded the alarm over the coup, urging “influential” countries to push the military to allow an independent assessment of the situation.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained civilian government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party after the military complained of fraud in a November election.
“Regrettably, the current regime has so far asked me to postpone any visit. It seems they want to continue making large-scale arrests and have been coercing people to testify against the NLD Government. This is cruel and inhumane,” Schraner Burgener said.
The country has been largely paralyzed by weeks of protests and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes against the military. While military chief General Min Aung Hlaing says authorities are using minimal force during the protests, three protesters and one policeman have been killed.
“If there is any escalation in terms of military crackdown – and sadly as we have seen this before in Myanmar – against people exercising their basic rights, let us act swiftly and collectively,” Schraner Burgener said.
The army has promised an election, but has not given a date. It has imposed a one-year state of emergency.
“It is important the international community does not lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime,” Schraner Burgener said. “The result of the election of November 2020 was clear with 82 percent of the votes for the NLD.”
Guterres has pledged to mobilize enough international pressure “to make sure that this coup fails.” The Security Council has voiced concern over the state of emergency, but stopped short of condemning the coup.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the United States “has and will continue to take actions in close coordination with allies and partners” to show the Myanmar military its actions have consequences.
“We urge every member state here today to use any channel available to tell the military that violence against the people of Myanmar will not be tolerated,” she said. “Together we all show the people of Myanmar that the world is watching. We hear them and we stand with them.”
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said the international community should respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and “avoid intensifying tensions.”
“China is engaging right now right now and communicating with relevant parties in Myanmar to facilitate de-escalating the situation and returning to normalcy at an early date,” he said.
Russia said other nations should not intervene in the “exclusively internal process” of Myanmar. “Any attempts to turn the consideration of recent events in the country, in terms of the announcement of state of emergency, into a human rights issue is unjustified and politicized,” a Russian diplomat told the General Assembly.
(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Dan Grebler)