New York (CNN)In a beige stone townhouse on a leafy New York street, a political coup thousands of miles away has split an office in two.
Downstairs in the dimly lit building, staffers at Myanmar’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations receive orders from the military junta, which overthrew the country’s elected government on February 1. Upstairs, charismatic ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun is leading what is effectively an underground diplomatic corps, part of an attempt to wrestle back control of the country. His conference room is decorated with portraits of a long line of his military-aligned predecessors, reminders of what he’s up against. Staffers at Myanmar’s dozens of diplomatic posts around the world have been faced with a predicament since the coup. Stay in their roles and be forced to represent the military junta that has killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters and locked up the democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Speak out and risk being fired and placing themselves and their families in Myanmar in danger. Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters make the three-finger salute of resistance during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Tuesday, April 27.Hide Caption 1 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice officers clear a road after demonstrators spread placards in Yangon on Saturday, April 24.Hide Caption 2 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters run from security forces during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on April 12.Hide Caption 3 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBuses from the Yangon Bus Service are seen burnt on April 12.Hide Caption 4 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice talk as they arrive at the site of a demonstration in Yangon on April 12.Hide Caption 5 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters walk through Yangon’s Hlaing township on April 9.Hide Caption 6 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester raises a decorated Easter egg along with the three-fingered salute of resistance during a demonstration in Yangon on April 4.Hide Caption 7 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold homemade pipe air guns during a demonstration in Yangon on April 3.Hide Caption 8 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold improvised weapons in Yangon on April 3.Hide Caption 9 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarResidents of the Tamwe area of Yangon participate in a candlelight vigil on April 3.Hide Caption 10 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople take part in a “flower strike” in Yangon on April 2.Hide Caption 11 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters wearing face paint stand near a burning barricade during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 12 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers walk toward anti-coup protesters during a demonstration in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 13 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters run to avoid the military in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 14 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA man rides his bike as smoke billows from burning barricades in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 15 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters throw stones and use slingshots as security forces approached in Yangon on March 28.Hide Caption 16 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke rises after anti-coup protesters burned tires in Yangon on March 27.Hide Caption 17 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters make incendiary devices during an anti-coup rally in Yangon.Hide Caption 18 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke rises over Yangon’s Thaketa Township on March 27.Hide Caption 19 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMourners attend the funeral of Tin Hla, a 43-year-old who was reportedly shot dead by security forces during a protest.Hide Caption 20 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople cry in Yangon after a relative was shot during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters.Hide Caption 21 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters occupy a street during a rally in Yangon on March 27.Hide Caption 22 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gesture during a march in Yangon on March 26.Hide Caption 23 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThein Zaw, a journalist with the Associated Press, waves after being released from a prison in Yangon on March 24. He had been detained while covering an anti-coup protest in February.Hide Caption 24 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMen pray during the funeral of Khin Myo Chit, a 7-year-old girl who was shot in her home by Myanmar’s security forces on March 23. The girl was killed during a military raid, according to the Reuters news agency and the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.Hide Caption 25 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA Buddhist monk uses binoculars as he squats behind a road barricade with others in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 22.Hide Caption 26 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThe mother of Aung Kaung Htet wails during the teenage boy’s funeral on March 21. Aung, 15, was killed when military junta forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters in Yangon.Hide Caption 27 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarUnidentified people cross the Tiau River at the India-Myanmar border on March 20. Some people from Myanmar have sought refuge in India since the protests began.Hide Caption 28 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester jumps over a makeshift barricade in Yangon on March 19.Hide Caption 29 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters take positions on Yangon’s Bayint Naung Bridge on March 17. The bridge was blocked with an improvised barricade to prevent security forces from crossing.Hide Caption 30 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedical students hold up the three-finger salute at the Yangon funeral of Khant Nyar Hein on March 16. The first-year medical student was fatally shot during the crackdown.Hide Caption 31 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters test Molotov cocktails in Yangon on March 16.Hide Caption 32 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters stand near burning tires in Yangon on March 16.Hide Caption 33 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters pray in Yangon on March 14.Hide Caption 34 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarEmergency workers transport the body of Shel Ye Win, who was shot by security forces in Mandalay.Hide Caption 35 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke billows from the industrial zone of the Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon on March 14. The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar said several Chinese-funded factories were set ablaze during protests. Demonstrators have accused Beijing of supporting the coup and junta.Hide Caption 36 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA member of Myanmar’s police is seen firing a weapon toward protesters in Yangon on March 13.Hide Caption 37 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople lay flowers and light candles beside bloodied pavement where protester Chit Min Thu was killed in Yangon.Hide Caption 38 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMilitary trucks are seen near a burning barricade in Yangon that was erected by protesters and then set on fire by soldiers on March 10.Hide Caption 39 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester holds a homemade shield during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 9.Hide Caption 40 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas that was fired by police in Yangon on March 8.Hide Caption 41 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters string up longyi, traditional clothing worn in Myanmar, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 7.Hide Caption 42 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThe wife of Phoe Chit, a protester who died during a demonstration, cries over her husband’s coffin during his funeral in Yangon on March 5.Hide Caption 43 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters step on portraits of Myanmar’s armed forces chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 5.Hide Caption 44 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople cry in Yangon on March 4, near a spot where a family member was killed while protesting.Hide Caption 45 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters lie on the ground after police opened fire to disperse an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 46 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSchoolteachers wear traditional hats while participating in an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 47 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA soldier stands next to a detained man during a demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 48 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters run in Yangon on March 3. One of them discharged a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by police.Hide Caption 49 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester writes vital emergency information of another protester on his arm in Yangon.Hide Caption 50 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice run toward protesters to disperse a demonstration in Yangon on March 3.Hide Caption 51 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA citizen of Myanmar living in India burns a poster of Myanmar’s military chief during a protest in New Delhi on March 3.Hide Caption 52 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedics help supply oxygen to a protester who was exposed to tear gas in Yangon on March 3.Hide Caption 53 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flee after tear gas was fired during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.Hide Caption 54 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters smoke behind shields during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.Hide Caption 55 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters in Yangon run away from tear gas on March 1.Hide Caption 56 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople in Yangon take part in a ceremony on February 28 to remember those who have been killed during demonstrations.Hide Caption 57 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers patrol during a protest in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 58 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters take cover as they clash with police in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 59 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters erect barricades during a demonstration in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 60 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice charge at anti-coup protesters in Yangon on February 27.Hide Caption 61 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn injured protester receives medical attention in Mandalay after police and military forces cracked down on protests on February 26.Hide Caption 62 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFactory workers hold placards and shout slogans as they hold an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 25.Hide Caption 63 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 25.Hide Caption 64 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer films protesters near the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon on February 24.Hide Caption 65 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThida Hnin cries during the funeral of her husband, Thet Naing Win, in Mandalay on February 23. He and another protester were fatally shot by security forces during an anti-coup protest.Hide Caption 66 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice stand guard near the US Embassy in Yangon as protesters take part in an anti-coup demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 67 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold signs featuring civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in Yangon on February 22. Hide Caption 68 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gather for a demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 69 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA man is carried after police dispersed protesters in Mandalay on February 20. Hide Caption 70 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police truck uses a water cannon to disperse protesters in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 71 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer aims a gun toward protesters during a demonstration in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 72 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester holds a Suu Kyi poster as he sits in front of police in Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 73 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flash the three-fingered salute during a rally in downtown Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 74 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFlower tributes and sympathy messages are left in Yangon for Mya Thweh Thweh Khine. The 20-year-old was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyidaw, and she died on February 19.Hide Caption 75 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters block a major road during a demonstration in Yangon on February 17.Hide Caption 76 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarDemonstrators block a Yangon bridge with their cars on February 17.Hide Caption 77 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBuddhist monks march during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 16.Hide Caption 78 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA Suu Kyi banner is displayed during demonstrations in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 79 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers carry barricades in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 80 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarElected members of Parliament wave to protesters in Yangon as police surround the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, on February 15.Hide Caption 81 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedics clear the way as an injured protester is carried away for treatment in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 15.Hide Caption 82 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople gather around an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 83 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarYoung people in Yangon take part in an anti-coup hip-hop performance on February 14.Hide Caption 84 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters demonstrate in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 85 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA child runs alongside an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 86 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters march through the city of Shwebo on February 13.Hide Caption 87 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMembers of the Myanmar Photographers Association hold up their cameras as they call for Suu Kyi’s release on February 13.Hide Caption 88 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice detain a protester during a demonstration in Mawlamyine on February 12.Hide Caption 89 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFarmers ride a tractor with a Suu Kyi poster during a demonstration in Thongwa on February 12.Hide Caption 90 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester dressed as Lady Justice makes a three-finger salute as she takes part in a demonstration in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 91 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters demonstrate in Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on February 11.Hide Caption 92 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarGen. Min Aung Hlaing, the country’s military leader, makes a televised statement on February 11. He announced that more than 23,000 prisoners were set to be granted amnesty and released that day. It was unclear what offenses the prisoners were convicted of.Hide Caption 93 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBodybuilders take part in a protest in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 94 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople hold up letters that spell “get out dictators” during a demonstration at Inle Lake on February 11.Hide Caption 95 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester carries a child during a march in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 96 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarWomen in wedding gowns holds up anti-coup placards in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 97 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters in the capital of Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 98 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester pleads for police to refrain from using tear gas against demonstrators in Yangon on February 9.Hide Caption 99 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice fire water cannons at protesters in Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 100 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gather in Yangon on February 8.Hide Caption 101 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flash three-fingered salutes as they face rows of riot police in Naypyidaw on February 8.Hide Caption 102 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarHospital workers show three-finger salutes during a demonstration in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 103 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA rally takes place in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 104 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 105 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters give roses to riot police in Yangon on February 6.Hide Caption 106 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarYangon residents bang objects to show support for Suu Kyi and her party on February 5. Hide Caption 107 of 108 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers block a road near Myanmar’s Parliament on February 2, a day after the coup.Hide Caption 108 of 108Read MoreAt least 21 staffers across multiple regions — including Kyaw Moe Tun — have decided they won’t cooperate with the military-controlled foreign ministry. Instead, they are quietly using their connections and relative safety abroad to counter messaging from Myanmar’s military. To many of their former colleagues, they are defectors — people who have turned their backs on duty and the chain of command. Several diplomats who spoke to CNN insisted they are actually loyalists to the democratic government that was overthrown in February.The issue is getting other countries to see them that way.They have already had a win — the United Nations has allowed Kyaw Moe Tun to retain his seat and rejected a military-approved replacement. That makes him the only openly anti-coup Myanmar diplomat to remain in office.That alone won’t be enough. Myanmar’s military rulers could try again to replace him at any time — and the longer the military remains in power, the harder it will be for underground diplomats to secure international recognition.A military coupIn Berlin, Chaw Kalyar, 49, had stayed up late to watch Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government be sworn in.The NLD had been reelected in a landslide vote last year and February 1 was meant to be the day parliament opened. Instead, the country woke up to find men in green military uniform swarming the capital Naypyidaw. Television channels went black. In the days to come, members of Suu Kyi’s government would be hunted down or arrested.It was heartbreaking, said Chaw Kalyar, third secretary at the Berlin Embassy. As a 16-year-old, she had joined the country’s historic 1988 protests against military rule, and seen friends killed in the ensuing government crackdown. She joined the foreign ministry more than 23 years ago, when Myanmar was under another brutal military dictatorship. When February’s coup unfolded, Chaw Kalyar immediately knew she could not cooperate with the military junta — she remembered how much people had suffered. “We could not just sit by this time,” she said.As she talked with other embassy staffers in Berlin about publicly supporting the burgeoning civil disobedience movement, Chaw Kalyar was cautious that others in the embassy may support the military.JUST WATCHEDDancing fitness instructor oblivious to military coup taking placeReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Dancing fitness instructor oblivious to military coup taking place 02:19Many of the country’s career diplomats took roles in the foreign service during Myanmar’s half century of military rule, which plunged Myanmar — then called Burma — into poverty, isolationism and civil war.Just over a decade ago, the military chiefs put in place a plan that would permit the country to hold elections, liberalize the economy, and transition into a semi-democracy while still maintaining their authority. Suu Kyi’s NLD election win in 2020 was only the second democratic election held since direct military rule ended. The party appeared to be leading the country, but in reality the military remained a powerful force. The diplomats and embassy staff who denounced the coup were resisting a return to past repression. Chaw Kalyar knew that if she spoke out against the coup, and the movement against the junta was unsuccessful, she would likely never be able to go home. Despite the risks, she decided to act. “It’s like all our life has endured this military dictatorship,” she said. “We have to join this movement, and we think this movement can bring down this military coup, and we can finally eradicate this military brutality.”
“We think this movement can bring down this military coup, and we can finally eradicate this military brutality.”Chaw Kalyar
Thet Htar Mya Yee San, 29, a junior diplomat at the Myanmar embassy in Washington, remembers an emotional conversation with like-minded diplomats in two European cities. Although she was on her first foreign assignment, she and other young diplomats decided they should “give up everything” to support the civil disobedience movement or CDM, which has seen people across Myanmar stop going to work to prevent the country from operating as normal under its new de facto rulers.But isolated in foreign countries, fearful for their families at home and uncertain of what would come next, they didn’t take action immediately. That would come after a key moment a few weeks later.A symbolic gestureOn February 26, Kyaw Moe Tun left his office in Manhattan’s Upper West Side with two statements to give to the United Nations — one prepared and approved by the military junta, the other he’d secretly written himself. When it was his turn to address the 193-member UN General Assembly, Kyaw Moe Tun made a shocking break from diplomatic norms, raising the three-finger salute — a gesture from the “Hunger Games” films adopted by the resistance movement in Myanmar — and calling for the world to restore democracy in his country using “any means necessary.””In addition to the existing support, we need for the 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 the 27-year veteran of Myanmar’s foreign service, whose default expression is a gentle smile. Kyaw Moe Tun made a three-finger salute before calling for international help to end military rule in Myanmar.After his statement, military leaders in Naypyidaw contacted Kyaw Moe Tun’s staff in the UN Mission, telling them not to engage with the rogue ambassador, he told CNN. Of the 14 workers at the New York mission, five would soon quit and return to Myanmar.The following day, he says, the military dismissed him from his post — and sent a notice to every Myanmar embassy around the world instructing them to shun him.But it was too late. News of his speech rippled through Myanmar embassies and consulates. The fallout forced the UN to choose between allowing him to remain at the body or accepting the credentials of a new representative put forward by the military — an act that would have signaled acceptance of the coup.Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, on February 11, 2021.The UN chose to back Kyaw Moe Tun, even though the civilian government that appointed him is now largely in detention or in hiding. And around the world, his speech was inspiring others.In Berlin, Chaw Kalyar couldn’t hold back tears. Days later, on March 4, she and two of her six consular colleagues announced on Facebook they were joining the resistance movement. “If we fail, we won’t be able to go back home … but we cannot carry out their work,” she wrote. More than 10,000 people liked her post. Six days later, she was fired for insubordination.
Chaw Kalyar, the third secretary at the Myanmar Embassy in Berlin, announced on Facebook on March 4 that she was joining the revolution.
In Washington, Thet Htar Mya Yee San had already decided to quit her job. She didn’t want to send documents on behalf of the military to Congress or the State Department, as she had done for the democratically-elected government. Kyaw Moe Tun’s speech emboldened her. “All CDM diplomats started thinking that we could do something. We can contribute to something and we can be helpful to this pro-democracy movement,” she said.At the end of April, she wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, explaining why she refused to recognize the military as Myanmar’s leaders.
“Normally, diplomats are representing the government outside the country. But we don’t recognize it as our legitimate government, because it kills its own people.”Thet Htar Mya Yee San
“Normally, diplomats are representing the government outside the country. But we don’t recognize it as our legitimate government, because it kills its own people,” she said. CNN has requested comment from Myanmar’s military.Thet Htar Mya Yee San was dismissed on May 4. She says she hasn’t spoken to her father since she declared her support for the pro-democracy cause — she believes he’s angry with her for getting caught up in the struggle. Both have now joined the dispersed network of so-called “CDM diplomats,” led by Kyaw Moe Tun, which is working to keep foreign governments informed of the country’s ongoing resistance movement and of alleged human rights violations within the country.They are also pushing their foreign counterparts to recognize the nascent National Unity Government of Myanmar or NUG — a shadow cabinet formed from the ashes of Suu Kyi’s government, which seeks to restore civilian leadership in the country.How Myanmar’s parallel government worksKyaw Moe Tun’s unique toehold at the United Nations offers a potentially invaluable opening for NUG as it pushes for international recognition, in the same way Venezuela’s opposition movement has been globally recognized — though, so far, with little success.The NUG has said it wants to remove the junta, restore democracy and rebuild the country to create a better place for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity. It appears to have broad support within Myanmar, but some — including several armies representing Myanmar’s ethnic groups — are skeptical.Protesters make the three-finger salute and hold posters of Myanmar’s detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to mark her birthday as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on June 19, 2021. For decades, the country’s myriad ethnic minorities have been persecuted by successive military governments, subjected to state-sanctioned discrimination, conflict, land grabs, and human rights abuses. That did not stop when Suu Kyi’s NLD came to power.Suu Kyi was internationally condemned for her response to the military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim community in western Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017 that forced almost 1 million people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The military claimed it was targeting terrorists, and in 2019, Suu Kyi defended its actions at the International Court of Justice against allegations of genocide. The NLD government refused to even recognize the term “Rohingya” and continued to deny the group citizenship, effectively making them stateless. Representing Suu Kyi’s government in November 2020, Kyaw Moe Tun himself publicly rejected a UN draft resolution on human rights for the Rohingya.Today, there is no Rohingya representative in the NUG, a fact that is increasingly proving to be an obstacle in its search for recognition abroad. During a May 2021 hearing of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, California Representative Ted Lieu said he could not support the NUG — and would oppose its recognition — over its failure to represent the Rohingya. Backlash to the coup February 1
Myanmar’s military, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, seizes power in a coup, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior officials.
Ousted lawmakers from the National League for Democracy Party form the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) to continue the duties of the ousted legislature.
Tens of thousands of people take to the streets to protest the coup in Yangon and other cities, starting a nationwide protest movement and joining striking workers in a civil disobedience campaign.
Myanmar’s UN envoy Kyaw Moe Tun makes appeal to the United Nations, urging the use of “any means necessary” to stop the coup. He is fired the next day but refuses to step down, a decision that was supported by the UN.
Berlin-based Chaw Kalyar and two of her six consular colleagues publicly defect from the military and join the anti-coup movement. She is one of more than 20 to do so.
Myanmar’s UK Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn is locked out of the Embassy in London, weeks after he broke ranks with his country’s military junta. The military attaché in London takes control of the building.
CRPH announces the formation of a National Unity Government, which operates under cover or through members based abroad and seeks recognition as the legitimate government of Myanmar.
ASEAN leaders meeting on Myanmar is attended by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. A five-point consensus is reached based on stopping the violence. NUG is not invited.
Myanmar junta declares NUG and those aligned with it a ‘terrorist’ group.
UN General Assembly urges member states to ‘prevent the flow of arms’ to Myanmar but stops short of calling for an arms embargo.
Source: CNN research “The US should not support the National Unity Government in Burma unless it includes Rohingya representation. The prior government killed Rohingya with genocidal intent. NUG Myanmar must commit to stopping the ethnic cleansing actions against Rohingya,” he tweeted after the hearing.Many ethnic minority people say their demands should be central to any nation rebuilding, which include the formation of a federal democracy with greater rights, representation and autonomy for ethnic people. This is a chance, many have said, to address past abuses and create a fairer system that does not favor the dominant Bamar ethnicity. Kyaw Moe Tun said the rights of all minorities, whether ethnic or religious or otherwise, should be “equal” in a future civilian government. “We really share the concern of the international community with regard to the Rohingya, and we are also so sorry for what happened to them in 2016 and 2017,” he said. Tension inside the embassiesOne day after Kyaw Moe Tun spoke out at the UN, he got an alarming message from his colleagues in Washington, DC.They told him that Aung Lynn — the pro-junta Myanmar ambassador based in the US capital — was planning to pay his office a surprise visit in New York, and warned him to be careful.Within an hour, word spread within New York’s Burmese community, and a crowd formed outside the UN mission, he recalls. According to Kyaw Moe Tun, the Washington ambassador arrived by train and made it as far as the end of the block — but upon seeing the huge crowd, decided to turn back and return to Washington with his entourage. They never entered the building.”That’s sort of the protection given by our community,” Kyaw Moe Tun said. “Since then, we haven’t talked to each other.”JUST WATCHEDVideo shows Myanmar’s ambassador ‘locked out’ of embassyReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Video shows Myanmar’s ambassador ‘locked out’ of embassy 01:02It’s unclear what the Washington ambassador wanted to achieve from his visit and he did not reply to CNN’s request for comment, but some worried he was trying to lock Kyaw Moe Tun out. A potentially similar situation occurred in London in April, where Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK, Kyaw Zwar Minn, one of the first diplomats to speak out against the junta, was barred from the embassy by staff aligned with the military. After being thrown out in what he described as another “coup,” he was forced to sleep in his car. The CDM diplomats are based around the world from the US, to Geneva, to Tokyo. But those in Asian countries face a different set of risks to those in countries vocal on human rights issues, such as in Europe or the United States, Chaw Kalyar said.”There are a lot of my colleagues who really don’t like the military, and they don’t accept this military coup, but they just cannot join this movement,” she said. “We are lucky that we are in a European country that considers the human rights situation.”When two diplomats in Tokyo condemned the military violence, they were fired by the junta, local media reported. The Japanese foreign ministry said in a press conference that the Myanmar embassy invalidated their passports. Former Myanmar Ambassador to the UK Kyaw Zwar Minn listens to a statement being read on his behalf as he stands outside the Myanmar Embassy on April 8, 2021 in London, England. But while the German government is supporting Chaw Kalyar and her colleagues by allowing them to keep their diplomatic status in the country — at least for now — many defector diplomats have less clarity. Japan’s foreign ministry said in May that it had not yet decided how to respond. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at the time that their residency status had not yet been canceled, and a foreign ministry official said last week there had been no progress on their case since May.When Myanmar’s ambassador to South Korea stayed silent on the unfolding coup, some people in that country’s 20,000-strong Myanmar community grew frustrated. The Myanmar Junta Denouncement Committee — which supports the civil disobedience movement — contacted the ambassador and asked him to “stand on the side of the people.” “He did not stand with the people, but with the killers,” the group’s co-leader Soe Moe Thu, who has lived in Korea since 1995, said in April. “If the ambassador stands with us, he could use his power that comes with the position to aid the democracy of Myanmar … We are saddened that he dares to live in a democratic nation of South Korea while taking position to support the military dictatorship.” CNN has contacted the Myanmar Embassy in Seoul for comment.A South Korean monk comforts Myanmar national who cries in front of the Myanmar Embassy on February 25, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea during protests against the military coup in Myanmar.What happens nextThe diplomats who refused to represent the junta now face some serious practical questions around their visa status, and where they can live. The junta has declared Chaw Kalyar’s passport declared void. If she is deported to Myanmar, she believes she will be arrested on arrival. Chaw Kalyar says that makes her stateless.Chaw Kalyar used to live in an apartment paid for by the Myanmar Embassy in Germany, but she lost it when she was dismissed. When CNN spoke to her, she was living in a hotel, with a charity footing the bill. For now, she has the support of the German Foreign Office, which told her it was concerned for her safety. She said it can’t officially regard her and her colleagues as diplomats, but has said unofficially that their diplomatic visa status is confirmed until the end of June. After that, they may be able to join a language course and be offered a student status, although the German Foreign Office has not decided yet, she said. A source from the German Foreign Office said it was working to find a secure and sustainable solution.Like Chaw Kalyar, Washington-based Thet Htar Mya Yee San has also been cut off — she receives no salary, has no health insurance and no passport. Her future in the US looks stressful and a little scary, she says, but she’s motivated to continue because of the resistance from Myanmar’s people inside the country against military rule.
“They risk their lives every day now to protest. So if the people are against it, so we have to be too, because we are public servants.”Thet Htar MyaYee San
“They risk their lives every day now to protest,” she said. “So if the people are against it, so we have to be too, because we are public servants.” The whole issue could come to a head again at the UN General Assembly in September where Kyaw Moe Tun’s grip on his seat could be once again tested if the military junta submits a new request to replace him.”Controlling the (UN) General Assembly seat is critical,” writes Kelley Currie, a Fellow with the Indo-Pacific Security Project at the Center for a New American Security, and former US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, in Just Security. “Practically speaking, control over the UN seat in New York can be a beachhead for the NUG’s broader efforts towards international recognition even as the struggle on the ground continues and the democratic leadership builds out its own institutions.”A UN spokesperson told CNN the issue has not yet been raised in the plenary of the UN General Assembly during this session. Earlier this month, the assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution criticizing the coup — a sign of cold welcome to any potential overtures by the junta.Chaw Kalyar says the global community has to go even further. She wants foreign governments to recognize the NUG, which she sees as the only hope for Myanmar’s future.”We feel that the international community has failed us many times, but this is the last chance for our country Myanmar. If we fail again this time, there is no hope … it’s like the whole country will be destroyed completely. “We cannot survive, we cannot survive again, as a democratic nation anymore.”
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