Suu Kyi's life under threat, says husband

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The Independent Online
THE Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, faces a 'grave threat to her life' in her fourth year of house arrest in Rangoon, her husband, Michael Aris, said in Oxford yesterday, writes Raymond Whitaker.

Making it clear that his wife was locked in a battle of wills with the military regime which could result in her death, Dr Aris said Ms Suu Kyi, 47, had almost no means of supporting herself and was refusing all assistance. Asked if this amounted to a hunger strike, he replied: 'It is beginning to look that way.' It was possible that she would die, he added, but 'I know how determined she is in this decision. She has had ample time to think it over.'

Dr Aris, a Tibetan scholar who is a Fellow of St Antony's College, said his wife wanted Burma's military regime, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), to open a dialogue with the opposition. 'I made a request today to the authorities to start a reasonable dialogue with Suu in order to save the country and her,' he said.

Ms Suu Kyi has been confined to her home in Rangoon since 20 July 1989, the year before her party, the National League for Democracy, won a sweeping victory in a general election. The result was ignored by the Slorc, which continues to hold thousands of Ms Suu Kyi's supporters in jail. She is revered as the daughter of General Aung San, a Burmese nationalist who led the movement which guided the country to independence. He was assassinated in 1947.

Recently the regime, in an apparent attempt to improve its international image, has released some political prisoners and permitted foreign journalists to visit Burma. In May Dr Aris was allowed to visit his wife for the first time in more than two years. He returned in July, and planned to go again this month with their two teenage sons, but said he had received a note last week in his wife's handwriting, asking him not to come. 'Help from me falls into the category of material assistance, maintaining her in captivity,' he said. 'She knows I would have brought a large amount of food and books to sustain her.'

Since 1989 Ms Suu Kyi has seen no one apart from her immediate family, a servant and an officer from military intelligence. Dr Aris said his wife's health was 'not bad', although she had received no medical attention, but her meagre personal funds and food had almost run out.

The Slorc had changed the law retroactively to extend his wife's detention from three years to five years, he said. She refused to accept funds or favours from her captors, believing this would only serve to prolong her detention. For the same reason she had declined his help, and would not sell any possessions to raise money, as she had done in the past. The money from the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won last year, and other awards had gone to a trust set up for the health and education of the Burmese people: 'I am now very concerned that soon she will have no means at all of sustaining life.'

Asked how her family felt, a tearful Dr Aris replied: 'Our feelings are not significant. What we are thinking about is what she is enduring for her people. The issue now is her health and her life.'

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