Supporters of ousted Myanmar ambassador carry pepper spray to repel any break-in at his residence

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Patrick Sawer
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Kyaw Zwar Minn stands outside the Myanmar embassy on 8 April  - Shutterstock
Kyaw Zwar Minn stands outside the Myanmar embassy on 8 April - Shutterstock

Supporters of the ousted Myanmar ambassador to the UK are sleeping at his residence with pepper spray by their beds in anticipation of regime loyalists breaking in to evict him.

Kyaw Zwar Minn, who was last week forced out of the Myanmar embassy at the orders of the regime, has been told to quit the house, where he has lived with his family since his appointment in 2013, by Thursday or face prosecution.

He was last night barricaded inside the residence, in Hampstead, north London, where his supporters are only letting those they trust through the padlocked gates.

One, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against his own family in Myanmar, told The Telegraph: “I’m sleeping with pepper spray by my bed in case the regime loyalists try to break in. We are all terrified they will try to force their way into the residence to evict the ambassador.”

Kyaw Zwar Minn, who lives in the residence with his wife and their son, says the regime has threatened to force him to leave the house.

He urged the British government to stand up to Myanmar’s new military junta, which has been accused of killing hundreds of people since it took power on February 1.

Security officers walk down the street during crackdown in Bago - Reuters
Security officers walk down the street during crackdown in Bago - Reuters

“People are watching very closely the British government’s next step. They got a lesson from the Myanmar army … now they have to give a lesson back to the army,” the ambassador told The Guardian. “They have to show their strength.”

A source close to the ambassador’s family said: “We are asking the British government to help his family. We are scared about what they will do to us if they get in. They are already killing people at home.”

Kyaw Zwar Minn says his friends and family in Myanmar are in hiding, adding: “They are not able to show their face in public because of me.”

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office would not comment on fears over the safety of the ambassador and his family, but said: “We are seeking to ensure Kyaw Zwar Minn can live safely in the United Kingdom, while he decides his long-term future.”

The standoff at residence comes as 100,000 people have fled the central Myanmar town of Bago after the military regime brutally attacked anti-coup protesters at the weekend, leaving at least 100 dead.

A protester sets off fireworks from behind a makeshift barricade while clashing with security forces during a crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup in Bago - AFP
A protester sets off fireworks from behind a makeshift barricade while clashing with security forces during a crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup in Bago - AFP

Residents said that many people were seeking refuge from the junta’s violence in villages in the surrounding countryside.

“The people fleeing their homes are residents of four neighborhoods in the city where the junta forces attacked,” said one woman who declined to give her name told Radio Free Asia. “There must be over 100,000 or so.”

Reports from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said the military fired on unarmed civilians with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades.

According to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) – a group of independent international experts – bodies were piled in a compound of a pagoda, along with others who were injured and denied medical treatment.

“It is hard to imagine the horror that took place in Bago,” said Yanghee Lee, a former UN special rapporteur on Myanmar.

“Pre-dawn attacks, massacre, piles of bodies, bodies desecrated and evidence destroyed – this is what a Tatmadaw clearance operation looks like. The junta is on a killing spree, murdering the people they are supposed to protect and serve,” she said.

Activists reported the military has been charging families to retrieve the bodies of relatives killed in the massacre.

“Myanmar is in a state of terror and lawlessness,” says Chris Sidoti, a founding member of SAC-M. “The [UN] Secretary General must use all the authority vested in his office to pursue ways to stop the killing.”

The group is calling for Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, to make a personal trip to Myanmar and other countries in Southeast Asia and to demand a special session of the Security Council to address the crisis.

The AAPP has recorded more than 700 deaths since the February 1 coup, including 50 children.

The United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday it fears that the military clampdown since the coup risks escalating into a civil conflict like that seen in Syria and appealed for a halt to the "slaughter".

UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement 3,080 had been detained and there are reports that 23 people have been sentenced to death following secret trials.

"I fear the situation in Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict. States must not allow the deadly mistakes of the past in Syria and elsewhere to be repeated," Ms Bachelet said.

Local media showed traffic clogging the roads as people sought safety in rural areas. “I no longer feel safe and secure any more – some nights I am not able to sleep,” one resident told AFP.