Britain’s decision to appoint a new ambassador to Myanmar in July alarmed European allies who fear the move could lead to de facto recognition of the military regime that seized power on February 1.
Senior diplomatic sources said independent That the UK submitted credentials to the sanctioned military junta, subject to pressure from the Burmese side to rewrite a request already sent before the coup, while a civilian government was still in power.
The credentials of an appointed ambassador are usually channeled from one head of state to another, resulting in tacit mutual recognition although not formal recognition of a particular government. Myanmar’s self-styled Prime Minister General Min Aung Hlaing is known to have a weakness for glamorous state ceremonies. To avoid taking this formal step and giving a potential image to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, other Western embassies decided to appoint a low-ranking chargé d’affaires – a formality to signal an unwillingness to engage with the junta, all by pursuing diplomatic activity with the head of mission.
A senior official said embassies that had seen a change of staff in recent months, such as Germany, Denmark and Finland, had all opted to appoint a charge d’affaires and “could not understand the UK’s decision to ramp up recognition of the military so far”. Diplomat in Yangon. Other countries have considered taking a similar step, but now there are concerns within the European Union that the example set by Britain will prompt other countries to follow suit.
Myanmar was under military rule for more than 50 years before a partial transition to democracy in 2015, with the first free elections in decades won by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. But six months ago, the military returned, ousting the country’s elected leaders and violently suppressing subsequent protests, with victims including children and many members of Generation Z who had grown up under democratic rule. With the economy and healthcare system on the verge of collapse, the country is now reeling from a deadly wave of Covid-19.
The UK publicly condemned the military’s decision to seize power and rejected the landslide election victory in November 2020 of the National League for Democracy in Suu Kyi, whose civilian government has been in a power-sharing agreement with the generals since 2016.
Britain put pressure on the military junta of the United Nations Security Council, called for meetings to discuss the situation in Myanmar, and systematically condemned the actions of the military that have killed more than 1,000 people since the coup and arrested thousands, according to the Aid Society. Political Prisoners, a non-governmental organization based in Thailand.
His latest move comes as the parallel national unity government, set up by ousted lawmakers, is pressing for a place for its ambassador to the United Nations. The parallel government was formed through online meetings to challenge the military coup and support nationwide protests that exposed the unpopularity of the military council. The current representative of the United Nations is Kyaw Mo Tun, who has expressed outspoken support for the pro-democracy protests. Since then, two men have been arrested in the US for an alleged plot to kill him.
“This is a defining moment,” the diplomat told Yangon. independent. “In September it will be decided who will represent Myanmar at the United Nations and if the army wins it will be the end of the national unity government, they will just become a clandestine movement.
“We Europeans don’t really understand why Britain has come so far,” he added.
A tweet from new ambassador Pete Fowles announcing his appointment in July was followed by similar comments from Burmese citizens.
“The people of Myanmar may be wondering to whom the new British ambassador to Myanmar will present their credentials, whether it is the Government of National Unity or the Myanmar army,” one Twitter user posted in July.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office declined to comment on the matter when contacted independent.
Fowles took office in Myanmar this month, according to the State Department. Previously, he was Director of the Office of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Development for Asia, the Caribbean and Overseas Territories, and held previous positions in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India.
In April, when the UK sought credentials, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK Kyaw Zwar Min was expelled from the embassy by staff loyal to the junta after expressing support for the movement for the protest, then replaced with a new ambassador. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged receiving a call from the Military Council announcing the appointment of a Chargé d’Affairs to head the Myanmar Embassy in the United Kingdom.
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