After Coup in Myanmar, a Career Diplomat Takes a Stand


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Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent 15 years under house arrest, became foreign minister and the country’s de facto civilian leader. The military still controlled much of government, Parliament and the economy, but Myanmar was no longer isolated in tropical totalitarianism.

In 2018, Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun was dispatched to Geneva as ambassador and representative to the United Nations offices there. While the halting political transition unfolding in Myanmar had won star-struck admirers like President Obama, who visited twice, the reality of the military’s reflexive brutality intruded with the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, a campaign that intensified in 2017.

Rather than condemn the systematic executions, rapes and village burnings, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, defended the generals. There was little outcry in Myanmar over the brutal persecution of ethnic minorities. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi defended the military at The Hague, where Myanmar was accused of genocide against the Rohingya. Myanmar’s diplomats, including Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun, fell in line, earning the country international scorn.

Last October, Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun presented his credentials as Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations. Back home, rumors of a coup simmered before the November elections, which the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. The military cried foul, and talk of a putsch escalated.

On Feb. 1, the military, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, arrested the nation’s civilian leadership, later charging Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and the nation’s president with obscure crimes. Dozens of foreign ministry officials were detained after participating in the civil disobedience movement.

In overseas missions, envoys agonized over what to do. Daw Chaw Kalyar, now at the Myanmar Embassy in Berlin, recalled how as a high school student in 1988 she had marched in the mass protests before security forces killed hundreds or possibly thousands of people. Since the Feb. 1 coup, more than 60 people have been shot dead by the security forces.

The New York Times


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