Since the military coup in Myanmar two years ago, more than 100 of the nation's diplomats have chosen to draw international attention to their opposition to the military government by refusing to represent it.
Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar's permanent representative to the United Nations, was among the first to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). It is opposed to the military government that on February 1, 2021, ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
Speaking to VOA Burmese this week, he recalled the moment of echoing the people's desire: "I don't regret joining CDM at all. I am also proud, because we have to stand with the people. I am one of the people and a public servant, so I am proud of this. As public servants, we need to stand together with the people. What do the people want? To be frank, I am strongly opposed to those who knowingly pretend not to know what the people want."
The NLD appointed Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar's permanent representative to the United Nations in New York in October 2020.
Since the military takeover, the ambassador "has represented the people of Myanmar in the U.N. on behalf of the National Unity Government that was formed by elected members of parliament, representatives of various ethnic groups and civil society leaders. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun has used his position to convey the voices of the Myanmar people to the international community," according to the Peace Research Institute Oslo, which on Wednesday nominated him and Myanmar's National Unity Consultative Council, the opposition government, for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Kyaw Moe Tun said in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on February 26, 2021, that he did not represent the junta and was speaking for the democratically elected parliamentarians of the country.
Kyaw Moe Tun appealed to the U.N. to condemn the military rule of Myanmar and take "all strongest possible measures to stop the violent and brutal acts committed by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators and end the military coup immediately."
Of Myanmar's 1,000 foreign service personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 100 diplomats joined the CDM movement, according to Kyaw Moe Tun.
"Especially if you look at the international relations front, it is very obvious that [the military] simply cannot do whatever they want," he said. "For example, at the United Nations, the military has no right to be represented."
Kyaw Swa Tun, who served as the third secretary at the Myanmar Embassy in Washington, is among the defectors. "We were able to openly expose the injustices of the military in the country. It made things happen that we can't describe as much as we want to do before representing the junta. Therefore, joining CDM is one of the successes of the 2021 Spring Revolution," he told VOA Burmese.
VOA Burmese contacted the Myanmar Embassy in Washington to seek the views of those diplomats working on behalf of the military government but received no response.
On March 21, 2021, Myanmar's ruling military council charged Kyaw Moe Tun with treason. Since then, the council has attempted several times to replace him with its defense attache, Colonel Aung Thurein, as Myanmar's permanent representative to the United Nations with no success.
In its first post-coup resolution on Myanmar, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2669 on December 21, 2022, with a vote of 12-0 and abstentions by China, India and the Russian Federation.
The resolution "demanded an immediate end to all forms of violence throughout the country and urged restraint and the de-escalation of tensions. It also urged the Myanmar military to immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi," according to a news release from the Security Council.
Kyaw Moe Tun said that "based on the Security Council's resolution, we hope that the military leadership who are committing crimes against humanity and war crimes will be able to be accountable sooner rather than later."
Khin Soe Win contributed to this report.