The day Kim Aris received a letter from his mother, Aung San Suu Kyi, marked a significant moment after almost three years of silence. Speaking on February 2 in an interview with VOA via Zoom from his home in England, Aung San Suu Kyi's youngest son expressed concern about his mother's health in prison.
Aris confirmed with VOA that he had received a letter sent by his mother through the British Foreign Office. "Originally, it was just a picture, but I now have the original as well, a hard copy in her handwriting," he said.
He said his mother — Myanmar's detained pro-democracy leader — isn't receiving adequate medical treatment. The handwritten letter detailed her suffering from dental and other health problems.
"She was thanking me for the things I sent her in the care package and sending love to the family," Aris said of the letter. "But she also said that she's still suffering from ongoing health problems. Her teeth are still bad, which makes eating very difficult at times, and she has osteoporosis, which is ongoing even though she is generally well."
He said he is concerned about the well-being of his mother. "She's 78 years old now and has been kept in horrible conditions without adequate health care. So, I'm worried about her," he said. "To the best of my knowledge, she is held in the Naypyidaw prison, separated from other prisoners in solitary confinement."
Ousted, convicted, imprisoned
Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on February 1, 2021, after the military seized power from her elected government. The ensuing protests led to global outrage. Despite widespread belief that corruption charges filed against her were contrived for political purposes, she received a 27-year sentence.
"I sent a care package in September when we heard my mom was unwell," said Aris. "Although it arrived in Rangoon [Yangon] in September, she only received it at the end of December, and I received her reply in mid-January."
When asked about the unexpected permission for Suu Kyi to write to him, Aris speculated, "I'm sure they want to try and make themselves look better, but at the same time, they are allowing her property in Rangoon to be auctioned off."
On January 25, a court in military-controlled Myanmar ordered the auction of Suu Kyi's family home, where she spent 15 years under house arrest. This decision followed a lengthy legal dispute, granting half ownership to her estranged older brother, Aung San Oo, who holds U.S. citizenship. The auction is scheduled for March 20, with a floor price of 315 billion Myanmar kyats (about $90 million).
"The property that she lived in Naypyidaw was not her own property. That was government property," said Aris. "So, if she loses her house in Rangoon, she won't have any property of her own in Burma [Myanmar] at all."
He continued, "The military have already seized all her other assets, which she's built up for charitable works, and she wanted to use the house at University Avenue for the charitable works that she was setting up. Unfortunately, they've seized everything and along with the rest of the country. Everything has gone backwards."
"A lack of justice"
A Myanmar human rights lawyer close to Suu Kyi's family, speaking anonymously for security reasons, told VOA by phone Thursday, "There is a lack of justice in the so-called legal process, which has disregarded a longstanding decision by the Myanmar Supreme Court in 2018."
The country's highest court rejected Aung San Oo's appeal to auction off the house under the civilian government in 2018. However, the ruling from a Yangon district court, located in the nation's largest city, emerged approximately 18 months after the military-controlled Supreme Court approved a special appeal initiated by Aung San Oo.
This legal development grants him half ownership of the familial property in Yangon, covering a 1.9-acre area along Inye Lake and featuring a two-story colonial-style edifice.
The property holds profound historical significance, having been granted by the government to Suu Kyi's mother, Khin Kyi, following the assassination of her husband, the revered independence hero General Aung San, in July 1947.
Khin Kyi's passing in December 1988 — shortly after a failed mass uprising against military rule in which Suu Kyi played a pivotal role as a co-founder of the National League for Democracy party — adds a poignant layer to the property's narrative.
The Myanmar human rights lawyer said, "The rushed decision to sell the house is particularly unjust, given that Suu Kyi, who is currently in prison, resides in this house. The court, however, did not take this into consideration at all."
Aris said, "Unfortunately, the military makes up the rules as they go along, and if it makes life harder for my mother, then they will follow this."
Despite the challenges, Aris maintains hope about future communication with his mother. "I'll be writing to her again and sending more care packages," he said. "I hope that they get through."