Thai diplomat meets with Suu Kyi in detention in Myanmar and says she wants to join talks on crisis

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is the only government official outside of Myanmar known so far to have met with Suu Kyi since she was detained with other officials when the army seized power from her elected government on February 1, 2021.

July 12, 2023 10:47 pm | Updated 10:47 pm IST - Jakarta

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said on July 12, 2023, that he met ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in detention over the weekend and she conveyed her openness to engage in talks to resolve the crisis in her strife-torn nation.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said on July 12, 2023, that he met ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in detention over the weekend and she conveyed her openness to engage in talks to resolve the crisis in her strife-torn nation. | Photo Credit: AP

Thailand's top diplomat said on July 12 that he met with ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in detention over the weekend and she conveyed her openness to engage in talks to resolve the crisis gripping her strife-torn nation.

Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai is the only government official outside of Myanmar known so far to have met with Suu Kyi since she was detained with other officials when the army seized power from her elected government on Feb. 1, 2021.

He told his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who are meeting in Indonesia's capital, that Ms. Suu Kyi was in good health when he met with her for more than an hour on Sunday.

“She encourages dialogue,” Mr. Don told reporters in Jakarta when asked what message Ms. Suu Kyi conveyed to him. “Obviously we're trying to find a way to settle with Myanmar.” The military takeover and the crackdown on the armed resistance to it plunged the country into deadly chaos. Western and European governments, including the United States, have imposed sanctions on Myanmar's military government and demanded the immediate release of Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

Nay Phone Latt, a spokesperson for the National Unity Government — Myanmar's main opposition organization, which views itself as the country's legitimate government — told The Associated Press that the information about the meeting between the Thai foreign minister and Ms. Suu Kyi raised questions, and Myanmar's people are uncertain that it actually took place..

He added that the military junta's attempt to try to use the influence of Ms. Suu Kyi at this time is indirectly admitting that they are no longer in a good situation concerning the country's political crisis.

Ms. Suu Kyi, 78, is serving a total of 33 years imprisonment after being convicted on a raft of charges that her supporters and rights groups say were politically motivated in an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military's takeover while preventing her from returning to politics.

A legal official from Myanmar who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities because he is not authorized to release information about Ms. Suu Kyi's legal proceedings told the AP that Ms. Suu Kyi's lawyers on Wednesday submitted appeal arguments to the Supreme Court on her behalf for the five corruption cases where she was found guilty.

The Myanmar crisis is at the top of the agenda of the ministerial meetings of ASEAN, a 10-nation bloc that includes Myanmar and Indonesia, which is the group's chairman this year.

ASEAN has been under international pressure to address the crisis, and it again banned Myanmar's generals from attending ASEAN foreign ministerial meetings in Jakarta after the military government largely ignored an emergency plan to take steps to end the crisis.

The generals responded by accusing ASEAN of violating the bloc's bedrock principles of nonintervention in each other's domestic affairs.

Mr. Don told reporters Tuesday that his government wanted to see “all ASEAN members” back in the group, without elaborating, a stance that deviates from the regional bloc's position of not recognizing the military government and banning its attendance at the top-level meetings of the group.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Wednesday that ASEAN would continue to focus on the five-point peace plan, suggesting Myanmar's generals wouldn't be allowed back to the regional bloc's ministerial and leaders' summits unless they substantially comply with the plan.

When asked by reporters to comment on Mr. Don's meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi, Ms. Marsudi, who was hosting the ministerial meetings, declined to answer. She instead highlighted the more than 100 engagements Indonesia as ASEAN leader has so far done this year with rival groups in Myanmar to foster dialogue, which she said could lead to the easing of tensions and violent confrontations in Myanmar.

“ASEAN is still very concerned and condemns the high number of acts of violence,” Ms. Marsudi said. “ASEAN urges all parties to resolve or to stop acts of violence, especially those resulting in civilian victims of bombings of public facilities, including schools and hospitals.” More than 3,750 civilians, including pro-democracy activists, have been killed by security forces and nearly 24,000 arrested since the military takeover, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group that keeps tallies of arrests and casualties.

It's too early to tell if the rare access to Ms. Suu Kyi granted by Myanmar's military government to Mr. Don would eventually lead to talks between her camp and the ruling generals. The military government had earlier refused requests by ASEAN special envoys to meet her.

Asked if he considered his meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi a breakthrough, Mr. Don said it appeared to be a positive development.

Thailand supports ASEAN's approach of seeking the Myanmar military government's compliance with the five-point peace plan, Mr. Don said. But he told reporters without elaborating that his meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi was “an approach from the friends of Myanmar. We would like to see peaceful settlement.” Two Southeast Asian diplomats involved in the meetings in Jakarta told the AP that Thailand was taking extra steps to help ease the crisis out of fear that an escalation of the violence could drive large numbers of refugees from Myanmar into Thai territory. The two diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive issue publicly.

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