Burma jibe over Suu Kyi's ailing husband

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BURMA'S MILITARY government said yesterday that it was reviewing a visa request from the dying British husband of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, but said the request was "surprising", and that it would be more sensible for her to visit him.

"The government [of Burma] suggests that Ms Suu Kyi, who is in perfect health, travel to England to respond to her husband's dying wish to see her. She has so far refused to go," it said in the capital, Rangoon.

The military has long sought a way to get Ms Suu Kyi, the biggest thorn in its side for a decade, out of the country. She has not left for the past 11 years, fearing she would not be allowed back if she did.

Sources close to the family say that her husband, Michael Aris, an Oxford academic who has been denied a visa to Burma for the past three years, is dying from prostate cancer which has spread to his spine and lungs.

The government said in a statement that it would provide Ms Suu Kyi "all possible assistance" to join her husband. It did not say if she would be allowed to return if she did so.

The authorities argued that a trip by Mr Aris to Burma "would appear to be both irresponsible and inhumane, and the government is reluctant to encourage or endorse such an action".

The sources close to Ms Suu Kyi's family said that even if Mr Aris were granted a visa, he was not fit enough to travel. But he would do so if his condition improved, despite fears that he might not survive the journey.

Tin Oo, vice-chairman of Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, said that the opposition leader was very worried about her husband but could not leave Burma. "She knows that if she does, the military regime will never allow her to return," he said.

Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her courage in standing up to military rule, has not left Burma since she returned to Rangoon in early 1988 to nurse her dying mother. (Reuters)