Junta warns embassies against speaking to Aung San Suu Kyi representatives

Myanmar’s junta has ordered foreign embassies, UN agencies and other international organisations in the country not to talk to “illegal entities” representing Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, which it forced out of power this month.

The regime’s warning to embassies came as representatives of Aung San Suu Kyi’s toppled government consolidated their drive for international recognition, amid a sharp escalation of a crackdown by the military regime on Sunday that turned parts of Yangon into battle zones.

Police and soldiers on Sunday fired live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas at crowds in Myanmar’s biggest city, and clashed violently with protesters in Mandalay, the second city, Dawei in the south, and several other cities, including in ethnic minority states. At least 18 people died in the worst day of violence since the coup, and hundreds were arrested over the weekend.

The directive from Myanmar’s military-controlled foreign ministry, dated February 26 and seen by the Financial Times, said that the formation of groups such as the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), or parliament, formed by MPs pushed aside in the February 1 coup, were illegal. 

“The Ministry, therefore, would like to advise all diplomatic missions, the specialised agencies of the United Nations and international organisations accredited in Myanmar to refrain from making contacts or communications with those illegal entities,” the directive said. 

Myanmar state television reported on Saturday that Kyaw Moe Tun had been sacked as the country’s UN ambassador after he denounced the coup, publicly broke with the junta and urged the world to support the CRPH in a speech at the general assembly.

“It is crystal clear that we all do not want to go back to the system we were in before,” he said, raising three fingers at the end of his speech in a gesture popularised by democracy protesters in Myanmar and Thailand.

The CRPH was formed on February 5 by National League for Democracy MPs who managed to avoid arrest after Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was ousted by General Min Aung Hlaing. The military commander declared a year-long state of emergency and vowed to rerun an election the NLD won after making unsupported allegations of voter fraud. 

Sa Sa, the CRPH’s UN envoy appointed last week, told the FT that the CRPH planned to form its own “interim government” inside Myanmar in the coming weeks and seek recognition from the US, UK and UN. 

South-east Asian governments, led by Indonesia, are seeking to defuse the crisis and last week held talks in Bangkok with Wunna Maung Lwin, the junta’s foreign minister. The meeting infuriated supporters of the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under arrest and facing criminal charges.

Popular sympathy for Myanmar’s protest movement has spread among democracy activists elsewhere in Asia, through an online “Milk Tea Alliance”, which has called for mass protests in Bangkok and elsewhere in the region on Sunday. 

On Saturday, Woodside, the Australian energy company, became the latest foreign investor to pull out of Myanmar, saying that it “condemns human rights violations”, and would be demobilising its offshore exploration drilling team there in coming weeks.

“Reports of violence against the Myanmar people participating in peaceful protests are deeply distressing,” the company said. Woodside was lambasted by human rights groups after its chief executive Peter Coleman seemingly dismissed the coup and said that the company would proceed with a gas project in the country. 

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