Myanmar’s recently-ousted ambassador to the UK, who was locked out of his own embassy last week and forced to sleep in a car, says friends and relatives in his home country have gone into hiding.
Kyaw Zwar Minn, who was booted out of his role for declaring his loyalty to civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said the military regime is furious at his refusal to acknowledge their authority after they seized power in a coup.
“Some friends and relatives, they are hiding, staying away from their places. They are not able to show their face in public because of me,” Kyaw Zwar Minn said this week.
But it was not until members of his former staff showed up at his multimillion-pound official residence in Hampstead, ordering him to move out by Thursday, that he truly began to fear for his safety.
Following information from someone he describes as a “friend”, Kyaw Zwar Minn now believes his staff were spying on him in the days, possibly weeks leading up to his expulsion.
“The Foreign Office said that if they invaded our residence the British police could not do anything,” he told the Guardian, adding he was still unsure what support the UK government intended to give him to stay in London.
Last week, the situation seemed to come to a head when Kyaw Zwar Minn spent a night in his car outside the embassy after his then deputy, Chit Win, and military attache Soe Aung locked him out – on apparent orders from the regime.
The FCDO said in a statement the following day that it “condemned the way the Myanmar military in London barred their ambassador from entering the embassy”.
It continued: “We pay tribute to the courage of Kyaw Zwar Minn in standing up for the people of Myanmar. Given the bullying behaviour towards Kyaw Zwar Minn, we are seeking to ensure he can live safely in the United Kingdom while he decides his long-term future.”
The former diplomat is now urging the FCDO to increase security measures around his home, and to help his family stay safe.
“People are watching very closely the British government’s next step,” he said in the interview. “They got a lesson from the Myanmar army … now they have to give a lesson back to the army. They have to show their strength.”
Kyaw Zwar Minn shares his home in Hampstead – said to be secured by just a padlocked gate and, as of Monday, a single member of staff keeping watch – with his wife, two sons and two golden retrievers.
The former ambassador said the arrival of two of his former staff on Sunday caused great distress. “They put a letter from Naypyidaw [the capital of Myanmar] down. They showed their faces in front of our gate. It’s a kind of threat.”
Asked what risks he would face if he went back to Myanmar, he reportedly laughed and said: “If you’d like to see what happens when I go back, I will make you a mask that looks exactly like my features, and give it to you … then you go to Yangon and you can see what happens.”
More than 500 people have now been killed in Myanmar since the 1 February coup, according to activists there.
A candlelit vigil was held on 30 March to commemorate the landmark number of deaths, with one local woman telling Reuters news agency in the central town of Myingyan: “They are killing us like birds or chickens, even in our homes.”
But she added: “We will keep protesting regardless.”
The FCDO has been approached for comment on Kyaw Zwar Minn’s claims about the lack of security being offered to him.