Concern is growing about the health of Myanmar's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been serving a 27-year sentence in a Naypyidaw prison.
According to her son, Suu Kyi has been suffering from severe dental and gum issues, which have left her unable to eat.
“This, together with vomiting and dizziness making her unable to stand or walk, gives reason for serious concerns about her overall ill health and treatment during her two and a half years in a military prison,” Kim Aris told VOA via text message on Thursday.
A source near Naypyidaw, the military-built capital located in the north of the former capital, Yangon, has confirmed to VOA that the 78-year-old Nobel laureate's health has taken a serious downturn in recent days.
Denied medical care
According to the source, prison authorities were reportedly alerted to her deteriorating health, prompting a visit from the prison's chief medical officer. Despite her worsening condition, the junta has denied Suu Kyi's request to see a dental surgeon, said the source, who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns.
VOA sought confirmation of Suu Kyi's health condition from Myanmar’s junta and prison authorities, but no response has yet been received.
Suu Kyi was arrested when the army seized power from her elected government in February 2021. She has been convicted of a string of criminal offenses, mostly on charges brought by the military government. Her supporters and legal experts say the cases are an attempt to legitimize the military's seizure of power while discrediting her and preventing her return to politics.
Health care for detainees a basic right
“The military refusing my mother the right to requested treatment by a trusted doctor, is yet another callous and cruel action on the part of the junta,” wrote Aris. “As the right to health is a fundamental part of our human rights, that must be enjoyed without discrimination.”
U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq underscored the right to health care for Suu Kyi at a news briefing Wednesday.
“Everyone in detention should be able to have access to health care, that’s a basic right,” said Haq. “We have made clear our concerns about Aung San Suu Kyi, and we’ve called and continue to call for her release as well as the release of the other leaders of the National League for Democracy.”
Concerns about prison conditions
Aris, 46, who is based in the U.K., says his mother “has faced appalling living conditions, mistreatment and inadequate food since her arrest and imprisonment.” In addition, Aris said that his mother has been denied access to legal counsel.
“Given how many people lose their lives in prison in Burma [now Myanmar] this is of grave concern,” he told VOA via text message.
Suu Kyi saw her sentence reduced from 33 years to 27 years imprisonment in August. Despite some reports that Suu Kyi had been moved to house arrest, the spokesperson for Myanmar's military junta, General Zaw Min Tun, claimed ignorance in his response to VOA by phone.
“Regarding this matter,” he said, “we have not heard anything.”