Call for Suu Kyi to receive better medical care

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The Independent Online

A United Nations envoy, granted rare access to Burma's imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has called on the country's military dictators to grant her greater access to her doctors.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN's undersecretary-general for political affairs, met Ms Suu Kyi for an hour on Saturday as part of a four-day mission to press the leaders of Burma's military junta for democratic reforms.

Mr Gambari said the Nobel Peace laureate was "reasonably well" after his second visit since May, when he became the first foreigner to see Ms Suu Kyi in two years.

"She is reasonably well, considering that she has been in detention for 10 of the last 17 years or so," he said. "Of course, she needs to be allowed to see her doctors much more regularly."

Ms Suu Kyi has spent 11 of the last 17 years in detention, mostly under house arrest.

The envoy's comments followed an earlier statement from the UN saying that Ms Suu Kyi had conveyed to Mr Gambari that she was in "good health but requires more regular medical visits". Neither the statement nor Mr Gambari elaborated on her health condition. "She is very alert," he told reporters. "She has concern not only about her own welfare but the welfare of the people of Myanmar, all of them."

Ms Suu Kyi's physician, Tin Myo Win, is one of her few connections with the outside world. Until recently, he was allowed to visit about once a month. However, he was recently quoted as saying that he had not seen her since 24 August because of political developments in the country. He did not elaborate.

The UN Security Council put the country on its agenda in September, meaning that Burma's ruling junta is subject to greater UN scrutiny.

The United States has said it plans to introduce a resolution on Burma to the Security Council this year. John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, said Washington would wait until after Mr Gambari's visit before deciding on the contents of the resolution.

Mr Gambari told reporters in Bangkok after arriving from Yangon that his talks with junta leaders were "frank, and very constructive" and included dialogue on Ms Suu Kyi's continued detention and the need for political reforms in Burma.

"It was a very good meeting," he said of his talks with the junta chief, Senior General Than Shwe. "It laid out the concerns of the international community and the United Nations."

Burma's junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Ms Suu Kyi. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Ms Suu Kyi's party won a landslide election victory. Since then, Ms Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has been in and out of detention. She is kept in near-solitary confinement at her home, and is generally not allowed telephone contact or outside visitors.

Ms Suu Kyi looked gaunt in a rare photograph released by the United Nations after her meeting with Mr Gambari. It is believed to be the first image of Ms Suu Kyi released to the outside world since her latest detention began in May 2003.