Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Threatening Suu Kyi’s Health

The Irrawaddy News

Here’s a relevant question that no one has raised yet: is the Burmese junta deliberately manipulating events in hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will die from natural causes, which—in this case—would not be natural at all?

That’s not possible, you say? The ruling generals in Naypyidaw see the 63-year-old pro-democracy movement leader as an “enemy of the state.” They believe she’s the No 1 enemy, the leader of the “destructive elements” that threaten their rule and who have sabotaged “the peace and stability of the country.”

So, is it out of the question that the generals would be happy if Suu Kyi died by natural causes or was physically impaired? They can’t assassinate her because of the counterproductive reaction from the international community, even from such loyal allies as China and Russia. But they can ensure that her medical treatment is lacking or dispensed at a minimum level.

You can judge for yourself regarding the incidents that unfolded last week at her lakeside house at No 54 University Avenue. Actually, the house is not a real home for the Nobel peace laureate. For 13 years, it’s been her prison.

Suu Kyi now has low blood pressure; she is dehydrated; she has difficulty eating. In short, she is ill again, but on Thursday her primary physician was barred from visiting her for a routine medical checkup and detained for questioning.

Another doctor treated her with an intravenous drip on Friday. Following her request and demands by the National League for Democracy (NLD), she was allowed to return on Saturday and Monday.

"We are worried about Daw Suu's health,” said NLD spokesman Nyan Win last week.
“Authorities should allow free access of her doctor to give Daw Suu the required medical treatment."

If you look at these and earlier incidents in light of basic humanity, law and human rights you can see a pattern of willful negligence by the regime. Of course, in Burma the local population is used to neglect.

The fact is that Suu Kyi has been detained illegally for 13 years, with no just cause and only the minimum of proper medical treatment, which could lead to an early death or a premature loss of physical strength.

This month is more critical than ever for the junta. Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Kyi Win, said that according to the law, she should be released on May 27, the date marking six years since May 2003 when her NLD motorcade was attacked by a junta-backed mob in upper Burma and she was detained.

Suu Kyi’s lawyer is right, but the generals redo their own rules and laws, using them like a rubber band—to stretch and shrink at will.

For example, Suu Kyi was detained for the first time in 1989 under 10 (b) of the State Provision Act, under which a person could be detained under house arrest for a maximum of three years under the existing law. But one year later, the government changed the law to a maximum of five years. Suu Kyi was detained at that time until 1995, a total of six years.

This is a critical moment for the generals, since they plan to hold a national election in 2010. If Suu Kyi is free, it greatly complicates the election. In 1990, the junta held an election while Suu Kyi was under house arrest, believing the state-backed National Unity Party, formed by former members of the dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party, could win the election. Instead, Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by landslide.

If a healthy Suu Kyi is free prior to the 2010 election her most loyal supporters and the general public will return to the political activism of 1995 and 2002 when she was free.

In light of that, you should expect the generals to find a way not to release Suu Kyi, in spite of their own law.

So what now? Several options could play out during the course of the next year.

The junta’s rubber-band law could find a way to keep her under house arrest. Or perhaps Suu Kyi does develop a serious illness, effectively limiting her leadership ability.

Or, if the regime does release her—somehow seeing a political gain in that act—it could always fabricate a new reason for her arrest, as it did in 2003.

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