Ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn — who last month broke ranks with his country’s military junta — told CNN he tried to gain access to the embassy on Wednesday for several hours but was unable to enter. Several of his staff were still inside the building, and were not being allowed out, he said.
Another source also said that Myanmar’s military attache in London had taken control of the building. They added that a group of at least seven people were inside, of which one was a child.
Minn’s spokesperson said Thursday that members of the military were in control of the premises and “threatening the embassy staff with severe punishment.”
Through the spokesperson the ambassador also urged the British government to send the junta’s envoy back to Myanmar.
When asked Thursday if he was going to claim political asylum in Britain, Minn replied that he hadn’t decided yet.
“We condemn the bullying actions of the Myanmar military regime in London yesterday, and I pay tribute to Kyaw Zwar Minn for his courage. The UK continues to call for an end to the coup and the appalling violence, and a swift restoration of democracy,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a Twitter post early Thursday.
CNN has reached out to the Myanmar military for comment. Phone calls made to the embassy went unanswered and emails bounced back.
Myanmar’s military seized power in the country on February 1, deposing civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. Non-violent protests against the coup have since broken out across the country, and several Myanmar diplomats posted abroad have also made statements of resistance.
Minn issued a statement last month calling for Suu Kyi‘s release from detention and pledged to keep the embassy open, following a call with Raab.
At the time, Raab said in a tweet that he spoke to the ambassador and “praised his courage and patriotism in standing up for what is right.”
The military responded by recalling the ambassador. “Since he did not conduct himself in accordance with given responsibilities, an order [is issued] to summon and transfer him back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” MRTV reported.
The source said embassy staffers were all caught by surprise during Wednesday’s events, but that they had anticipated something could happen after the military coup in Myanmar and the ambassador’s statement of defiance toward the junta.
A Facebook live stream on Wednesday showed several people showing their support for Myanmar’s UK ambassador and expressing confusion with the events of the day.
Around 50 people also gathered outside the embassy building in Mayfair, an exclusive part of central London.
Officers from London’s Metropolitan Police were also on the ground, warning people to disperse as they were in violation of coronavirus restrictions.
Most those gathered since dispersed as the evening wore on, but CNN has seen at least four police vans filled with officers park near Myanmar’s embassy.
London’s Metropolitan Police told CNN in a statement: “We are aware of a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Mayfair, London. Public order officers are in attendance. There have been no arrests.”
In a statement to CNN, UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was “seeking further information following an incident at Myanmar’s embassy in London.”
Myanmar’s military leaders tried in vain in remove another diplomat in March, after UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun called on the international community members to use “any means necessary” to help restore the country’s civilian leadership.
He refused to step down however, a decision that has been supported by the UN.
Myanmar military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun has said the junta plans to hold new elections after a one-year state of emergency.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the UK said he has been locked out of the London embassy in what he described as another “coup,” blaming the country’s military.