In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Maung Maung Latt—First Secretary at the Burmese Embassy in Washington D.C.—explains why he has resigned his position at the embassy following Monday’s military coup in Myanmar, and why he is applying for political asylum in the United States. The diplomat uses the historic name for the former British colony – Burma –which a previous military junta changed to Myanmar in 1989.
RFA: Can you tell us why you quit your position as First Secretary at the Burmese Embassy in Washington, D.C. following the military takeover in Burma?
Maung Maung Latt: I was very displeased and upset that the military has staged a coup and has detained the government that was freely and fairly elected by the people. That is the main reason that I left my position, so that I can stand on the side of the Burmese people.
RFA: How many years did you serve the government in the Foreign Service? In which countries did you serve? Can you tell me anything about your experiences?
Maung Maung Latt: I served for 35 years, and served in Burmese embassies in five countries—the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Malaysia, and now in the U.S. I had actively participated during the 1988 people’s uprising [in Burma].
I later had to sign pledges not to say or do anything against the government, and I was allowed to continue in the Service. No overseas assignments were given to me for some time, and my promotions were withheld for a long time.
RFA: Burma’s military leaders have said they will hold on to state power for a year, and then stage free and fair elections afterwards. As a senior government official with a long experience of service, do you believe them?
Maung Maung Latt: I want to ask the military to release State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and the other legally elected leaders as soon as possible. I also want to call on the military to give up the state power that they seized illegally and hand it back over to the legally elected government.
RFA: Do you think there will be a lot of changes in the Burmese Embassy, and at the embassies in other countries?
Maung Maung Latt: Yes, I’m sure there will be changes. This happened before during periods of military administration. There could be a lot of restrictions placed on the embassy staff. And if we had not left our homes earlier, our passports might have been withheld by now.
In the past, the ambassador would keep all our passports under lock and key. This happened when I was serving in the Phiippines and Thailand. Things were more relaxed after the Thein Sein period.
RFA: Do you have any worries for the future?
Maung Maung Latt: I am worried that my safety could be at risk.
RFA: So you have asked for asylum here in the U.S.?
Maung Maung Latt: Yes, I have.
RFA: Do you have anything you would like to say to your colleagues in the Foreign Service?
Maung Maung Latt: I want to call on them to reject the military dictatorship and take action in whatever way they can.
RFA: And what would you like to say to the people of Burma?
Maung Maung Latt: I would like to urge all Burmese to stand up against the military dictatorship.
Reported by Nayrein Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane.