YANGON, Yangon division: This handout photograph taken and released by Myanmar's military information team yesterday shows National League for Democracy (NLD) patron Tin Oo (R) meeting Myanmar's armed forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at Tin Oo's home in Yangon. - AFP

YANGON: Myanmar's junta chief sat down with a prominent senior figure of Aung San Suu Kyi's ousted party yesterday, the first significant meeting since the February coup. The military deposed Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party from power, pushing many of her closest political allies into hiding while others have been arrested.

The junta has alleged electoral fraud in last year's poll as a justification for the putsch, but much of the country is in open revolt calling for a return to democracy. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing yesterday met with longtime politician and NLD stalwart Tin Oo, who has in recent years receded from the political landscape due to old age and poor health.

"Min Aung Hlaing told U Tin Oo that health treatment could be provided if necessary, and his army hospital will help," the junta's information team announced. Tin Oo, a 94-year-old former army general and co-founder of NLD, was pictured wearing his party pin-a trademark red flag with a golden peacock-during the meeting with Min Aung Hlaing, who was all smiles in civilian attire.

The junta chief also met with Khin Nyunt, former spy chief-turned-prime minister before he was arrested under the former junta. "Min Aung Hlaing also went to meet U Khin Nyunt... and asked about his health condition." The 82-year-old spent years in prison before he was released in 2012.

While some in the West saw him as a potential reformer, Khin Nyunt's reign as spy chief saw activists harassed, arrested and tortured en masse. Khin Nyunt's intelligence apparatus-which once infiltrated every neighbourhood across Myanmar-was purged after his ouster, while Tin Oo no longer plays an active role in NLD party affairs, said Richard Horsey, International Crisis Group's Myanmar senior advisor.

"It seems unlikely this meeting was sanctioned by the NLD," Horsey told AFP. "Given that Min Aung Hlaing seems determined to sideline Aung San Suu Kyi and won't meet with her, perhaps he's looking for other meetings that will be politically cost-free." A former NLD MP-who is now part of a group of ousted lawmakers working underground to undermine the junta-criticised the meeting yesterday.

"The intention of this meeting is dishonest. Min Aung Hlaing wants to take political advantage out of this meeting," said Htun Myint, who is currently on the run. After the February coup, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest. She currently faces a raft of charges that could see her jailed for decades. Yesterday's meeting came on the eve of a junta court verdict on Suu Kyi's charges of incitement and breaching coronavirus restrictions. The verdict was due to be announced last week, but the court adjourned it until December 6, without providing a reason. - AFP