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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

Foreign minister Don confirms meeting with Suu Kyi

Protesters hold up a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi and raise three-finger salutes during a demonstration to mark the second anniversary of the 2021 military coup, outside the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok on Feb 1 this year. (Photo: Reuters)

JAKARTA: Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai says he met with ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday, her first known meeting with a foreign envoy since she was detained following the 2021 military coup.

The 78-year-old Nobel peace laureate was in good health, Mr Don said on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in Jakarta.

The former state counsellor has been sentenced to 33 years in prison for a multitude of offences after a series of closed trials. She was arrested in February 2021 when the military launched a coup against her elected government. She denies wrongdoing and is in the process of appealing her convictions before the Supreme Court this month.

Mr Don, a regular visitor to Nay Pyi Taw, gave no details about where the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi took place. She is being held in an annex of a prison in the Myanmar capital and has been denied visits, including from her legal team.

“There was a meeting, she was in good health and it was a good meeting,” Mr Don said, adding that she had called for renewed talks to end the crisis.

“She encouraged dialogue,” he said.

The meeting was private and lasted “over one hour”, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP.

Mr Don, who caused a stir last month when he invited Asean counterparts to a meeting aimed at re-engaging with Myanmar’s ostracised military rulers (most stayed away), said the objective of seeing Aung San Suu Kyi was in line the bloc’s peace plan.

The so-called five-point consensus of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is the only official diplomatic process in play for achieving peace in Myanmar. Asean has barred the generals from its high-level meetings over their failure to honour the agreement.

“(The meeting) is an approach of the friends of Myanmar, who would like to see a peaceful settlement,” Mr Don told reporters in Jakarta.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been convicted of more than a dozen offences, ranging from incitement and election fraud to corruption and breaches of a state secrets law, in trials dismissed around the world as a sham.

Engagement debated

This week’s Asean meeting has been dominated by the crisis, which has left the bloc divided about how and whether it should re-engage with the junta.

Mr Don said he was advocating for “engagement with the authorities in Nay Pyi Taw”.

“Obviously, we are trying to find a way to settle Myanmar. After two years, there’s a development and that should be … positive,” he said.

The junta has rebuffed repeated requests by foreign diplomats to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, and for much of her trial, her lawyers were barred from speaking to the media.

In June last year, she was transferred from house arrest in Nay Pyi Taw to solitary confinement in prison.

Mr Don “visited (Nay Pyi Taw) just for a day trip and met with the commander in chief”, a senior military official told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

“I didn’t know about any meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

The military alleged widespread voter fraud during the elections in November 2020, which were won resoundingly by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, as a reason for its coup, which sparked huge protests and a bloody crackdown.

International observers said at the time that the polls were largely free and fair.

The NLD was decimated by the coup, with many senior members jailed or sent into hiding.

More than one million people have been displaced by fighting between the junta and opponents of the coup, according to the United Nations.

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