New Zealand announced Tuesday that it is suspending all high-level political and military contact with Myanmar after its military conducted a coup and arrested its civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, among others, last week.
The archipelago nation's foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, announced the suspension of their relationship in a statement explaining New Zealand does not recognize the legitimacy of the military government and calls on it to release all detained political leaders and restore their rule.
"New Zealand is deeply concerned at the coup in Myanmar," she said.
Mahuta has also directed the country's aid program to ensure any support to Myanmar does not benefit the military and New Zealand has agreed to implement a travel ban targeting Myanmar's military leaders that will be finalized this week.
New Zealand also joined a growing list of countries to call for a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to raise concerns about the coup's impact on human rights.
Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing said in his first televised address since the coup that the new military gov't will hold elections and hand over power to the winner ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/YkxoinPRQl— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 9, 2021
"The rule of law and democratic will of the people of Myanmar must be respected," she said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the suspension of relations during a post-Cabinet press conference on Tuesday, stating though New Zealand may not seem like the most significant player in the situation they do have influence.
Arden said their Myanmar aid program ran about $30.4 million between 2018 and last year, benefiting educational institutions and its union movement, among other areas, and New Zealand representatives are highly regarded by the Southeast Asian nation.
"When I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Aung San Suu Kyi, she specifically mentioned some of our representatives from New Zealand and Myanmar," she said. "They were well-regarded and well-respected and I think it played a really constructive role in that critical time for Myanmar and their transition."
The military of Myanmar seized control of the government in a military coup on Feb. 1, when it arrested Suu Kyi and other high-ranking elected officials and appointed military-backed Vice President U Myint Swe to acting president who called a nationwide state of emergency.
Myanmar security forces fire rubber bullets and use other means of force to disperse anti-coup protesters as New Zealand suspends high-level military and political contacts over putschhttps://t.co/SU7ujfYQou— TRT World (@trtworld) February 9, 2021
The military cited election fraud as cause for the seizure of power despite Myanmar's election commission dismissing the charge as baseless.
The United States and European Union are among global powers to express worry and condemnation over the coup, calling for political leaders to be released and for the government to be returned to the people.
The military has also charged Suu Kyi with possessing illegal radios at her home as well as those close to her, including her aide, Win Htein, on charges of sedition for criticizing military leader Min Aung Hlaing.
"We will do what we can from here in New Zealand," Arden said.
The U.N. Human Rights Council said Monday that it has scheduled to hold a special session on the crisis in Myanmar on Friday. At least 20 U.N. member states and 28 observer nations have requested for it to be held, it said.
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