Myanmar Military Tries to Fire U.N. Ambassador a Second Time for 'Abuses' of Duty

For a second time, Myanmar's military junta tried to fire its U.N. Ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, who condemned the military's February takeover, for "abuses" of duty, the Associated Press reported.

In a letter by Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, obtained by the AP, Lwin wrote that Tun "has been terminated on Feb. 27, 2021, due to abuses of his assigned duty and mandate." In a separate letter, the foreign minister said he appointed former military member Aung Thurein as the country's U.N. ambassador.

The military previously failed in getting rid of Tun, who issued a speech to the General Assembly weeks after the military's takeover to denounce the coup.

The director of the Myanmar Accountability Project in London, Chris Gunness, said the military's attempt to appoint Thurein to the U.N. is "an affront to the world body" and said he is "a man with such strong connections to an institution with blood on its hands and which stood accused of genocide in The Hague even before the coup."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Protesters Against Myanmar's Military
Myanmar's military tried to fire the country's U.N. ambassador for a second time. In this photo, protesters burn Myanmar military flags during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on July 11, 2021. STR/AFP via Getty Images

Tun opposed the military's Feb. 1 ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a dramatic speech to a General Assembly meeting on Myanmar on Feb. 26 -- weeks after the military takeover -- Tun appealed for "the strongest possible action from the international community" to restore democracy to the country. He also urged all countries to strongly condemn the coup, refuse to recognize the military regime, and ask the military leaders to respect the November 2020 elections won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

"We will continue to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, for the people," Tun said in a speech that drew loud applause from diplomats in the assembly chamber who called it "powerful," "brave" and "courageous."

There has been no reported action on the foreign minister's letter, which is dated May 12.

The 193-member General Assembly is in charge of accrediting diplomats. A request for accreditation must first go to its nine-member credentials committee, which this year comprises Cameroon, China, Iceland, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, United States and Uruguay.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that as far as he understands no meeting of the credentials committee has been scheduled.

In June, the U.N. said the secretary-general indicated that the results of the November election that gave a strong second mandate to Suu Kyi's party must be upheld.

The Myanmar Accountability Project condemned the military's attempts to replace Tun as well as Myanmar's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Kyaw Zwar Minn, who also remains loyal to Suu Kyi. The Guardian newspaper reported in April that Minn remains in limbo after being locked out of the London embassy by his deputy and the country's military attache.

The Guardian quoted Minn as saying his friends and relatives in Myanmar had been forced into hiding and he did not feel safe in the ambassador's residence, which he still occupied at the time.

Gunness said the military is seeking to replace Minn with former fighter pilot Htun Aung Kyaw.

Both Thurein and Kyaw have strong military backgrounds that "make ugly reading," Gunness said, adding that Thurein's remaining in the military until 2021 strongly suggests he served during the Feb. 1 military takeover and the crackdown afterward.

A U.N.-established investigation has recommended the prosecution of Myanmar's top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 2017 military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that forced 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

In January 2020, the United Nations' top court based in The Hague, Netherlands, ordered Myanmar to do all it can to prevent genocide against the Rohingya still in Myanmar. The ruling by the International Court of Justice came despite appeals by Suu Kyi for the judges to drop the case amid her denials of genocide by the armed forces.

Gunness said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders have condemned the coup and the UK and its allies have imposed sanctions on Myanmar's military leaders and their commercial interests. He said it would be "a gross double standard and a moral outrage" for the government to accredit Kyaw, saying he doesn't represent the legitimate government and "served in an army that stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity."

He also urged Britain to use its influence at the U.N. to ensure that the credentials committee doesn't accredit Thurein.