Thai FM says met Myanmar's Suu Kyi in first foreign envoy meeting since coup

Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Jakarta on 11 July, 2023AFP file photo

Thailand's foreign minister met with ousted Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week, he told reporters Wednesday, her first known meeting with a foreign envoy since she was detained following a 2021 coup.

Suu Kyi has been seen only once since she was detained after the 1 February, 2021 putsch -- in grainy state media photos from a bare courtroom in the military-built capital Naypyidaw.

"There was a meeting, she was in good health and it was a good meeting," Don Pramudwinai said on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

The meeting was private and lasted "over one hour", a spokesperson from Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP.

The coup that overthrew Suu Kyi ended Myanmar's brief democratic experiment and plunged the Southeast Asian nation into bloody turmoil.

The Nobel laureate, 78, was later hit with a raft of charges and jailed by a junta court for a total of 33 years in trials that rights groups slammed as a sham.

Don confirmed that he met with Suu Kyi on Sunday and that she had called for renewed talks to end the crisis.

"She encouraged dialogue," Don said.

The ASEAN meeting has been dominated by the crisis, which has left the bloc divided about how and whether it should re-engage with Myanmar's junta rulers, who have been barred from its high-level meetings.

Don said he was advocating for "engagement with the authority in Naypyidaw".

"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 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 Naypyidaw to solitary confinement in prison.

One-day visit

Don "visited here just for a day trip and met with the commander in chief" Min Aung Hlaing, a senior military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"I didn't know about any meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said, using a Burmese honorific and without detailing when Don had visited Myanmar.

The military has cited alleged widespread voter fraud during elections in November 2020, which were won resoundingly by 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.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since, with the junta razing villages and conducting mass extrajudicial killings and air strikes on civilians, according to rights groups.

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