Thai FM says jailed leader Suu Kyi urges dialogue with Myanmar’s military

“There should be engagement with the junta", Don Pramudwinai said.

Arlina Arshad

Arlina Arshad

The Straits Times


Thailand Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai (left) said that Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi encouraged dialogue with the Myanmar junta. PHOTO: AFP

July 13, 2023

JAKARTA – Thailand’s outgoing foreign minister revealed on Wednesday that he met ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday, and she encouraged engagement with the country’s military junta to settle the crisis there.

“There was a meeting. She was in good health. We had a good meeting,” Mr Don Pramudwinai told reporters on the sidelines of the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and related meetings in Jakarta.

He said the two of them are trying to find a way to settle the Myanmar issue, and Ms Suu Kyi encourages dialogue, he added. “There should be engagement with the junta. There should be engagement with the authorities in Naypyitaw.”

It is understood that Ms Suu Kyi is being held in the annex of a prison in the capital, Naypyitaw, and has been denied visits, including from her legal team.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Kanchana Patarachoke said on Wednesday that Mr Don had a private discussion with Ms Suu Kyi for over an hour, after getting the go-ahead from both Ms Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council.

Their discussion “was a positive development and a step in the right direction in finding a peaceful settlement to the ongoing situation in Myanmar, underlining that Asean has a critical role to play in finding political solutions and building trust amongst the key stakeholders”, the ministry added.

Myanmar has been ravaged by deadly violence since the military overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup in February 2021. The ensuing violence has left thousands of civilians dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Mr Don caused a stir in June when he invited his Asean counterparts to a secret meeting to re-engage with Myanmar’s military. Besides Myanmar and host Thailand, Laos was the only country to send its top diplomat. Other Asean nations, save for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, sent other representatives.

His remarks came as Asean leaders gathered in the Indonesian capital to attend meetings, which started on Tuesday and end on Friday.

Reports said Asean members were making efforts to unite the group around the Myanmar issue.

Without directly mentioning Myanmar, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi stressed at the plenary session on Tuesday the importance of unity and centrality to maintain peace and stability in the region. After the retreat session on Wednesday, she said “unity has been asserted by all member states”.

On Wednesday, Ms Retno told her Asean counterparts that it is “high time” to encourage stakeholders in Myanmar to hold a dialogue to reach a political solution to address the crisis in their country.

“Dialogue will pave the way to a political solution. Only a political solution will lead to durable peace,” she said at the retreat session earlier on Wednesday.

Indonesia, as host and chair of the 10-nation grouping, has carried out more than 110 “very intense and broad” engagements with various stakeholders in strife-torn Myanmar in the last seven months, she said. “This is a very complex exercise, and it is not easy at all.”

Ms Retno told reporters after the retreat that Asean member states were “solid” in providing support to Indonesia as Asean chair, and appreciated its efforts.

She maintained that the five-point peace plan (5PC) adopted by Asean in April 2021 will remain the main reference in resolving the crisis, and its implementation should remain the focus of Asean, she said.

The plan called for dialogue by all parties, an immediate halt to violence in Myanmar, the appointment of an Asean special envoy to facilitate mediation, humanitarian assistance, and a visit by an Asean delegation to Myanmar to meet all concerned parties.

“Other initiatives must support the implementation of the 5PC and must be in line with the 5PC,” Ms Retno said.

Indonesia, she said, strongly condemned the use of force and violence in Myanmar, and urged all stakeholders to denounce violence, as “it is paramount” to build trust, deliver humanitarian assistance and for dialogue to take place.

Ms Retno said she hopes access will be granted for the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management to reach those in need in areas including Magway and Sagaing.

The foreign ministers’ meeting will be followed by talks later this week with Beijing, Washington and other powers, with top United States diplomat Antony Blinken set to reiterate a call for Asean to push back on China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

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