LONDON — Beset by mass demonstrations, global condemnation and sanctions since seizing power in February, Myanmar’s military has also faced a quieter protest from the country’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.
So on Wednesday they locked him out.
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Stood curbside, wearing sneakers and waiting by his car in the upmarket Mayfair area of London, Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn told reporters he had been locked out of the embassy by his deputy after refusing to obey Myanmar’s military junta.
“It’s a kind of coup in the middle of London,” he told Reuters. “You can see that they occupy my building.”
British police were standing guard outside the southeast Asian country’s embassy as a handful of protesters against the coup and the military’s deadly crackdown gathered in the street outside.
Kyaw Zwar Minn, who took up the role in the British capital in 2013 and previously served in France, later issued a statement urging the British government not to recognize or work with any replacement connected to the military.
“The ambassador has been recalled by the Myanmar military regime — since then he has stopped following instructions from the Myanmar foreign ministry,” he said through his spokesman.
“We believe the U.K. government would not back those who are working for the military junta and we also would like to urge the U.K. government to send them back,” the ambassador said.
Kyaw Zwar Minn broke ranks and called for elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be released in a statement on March 8, with the U.K. lauding the ambassador at the time for his “courage and patriotism.”
In a letter to the British foreign ministry from the Myanmar embassy, seen by Reuters, those in control of the embassy said that Kyaw Zwar Minn was recalled on March 9. Deputy ambassador Chit Win had taken over as charge d’affairs as of April 7, the letter said.
The U.K. said Thursday it would no longer recognize Kyaw Zwar Minn as ambassador, in line with protocol, now that the junta had issued a formal notification to U.K. authorities of his removal.
NBC News has not verified the existence of the letter.
NBC News did not immediately receive a response to requests for comment from Myanmar’s London embassy or the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Like the United States, Britain has sanctioned members of Myanmar’s military and some of its business interests in wake of the coup.
“We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage,” Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab tweeted on Thursday. “The U.K. continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence, and a swift restoration of democracy.”
The military seized power on Feb. 1 from the elected government of Suu Kyi, who is currently in detention facing various charges.
The junta claimed there were irregularities in the voting rolls for last November’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.
The country’s ambassador to the United Nations was fired in February after he made an emotional speech in New York declaring his loyalty to the ousted civilian government and calling on the world not to let up pressure on the military.
The U.N., which has condemned the coup, said last month that its special envoy would make attempts to visit the country in the coming weeks.
Anti-coup demonstrators have continued to protest in Myanmar despite a deadly crackdown by security forces.
The death toll has rocketed in recent weeks as clashes have intensified, with more than 600 civilians including many children killed since the junta seized power, according to human rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
At least 11 protesters were killed on Thursday, domestic media reported.
In a speech to soldiers carried in state media on Sunday, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said security forces were “exercising utmost restraint” against armed rioters who were causing violence and anarchy.
The junta at the weekend also announced arrest warrants for more than 60 celebrities, social media influencers, models and musicians in Myanmar on charges of incitement.
Adela Suliman is a London-based reporter for NBC News Digital.
Reuters and Matteo Moschella