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11 May 2009

Myanmar junta denies medical care for opposition leader

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The opposition National League for Democracy in Myanmar has expressed grave concerns about the health of its imprisoned party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, reported Radio Netherlands on its website Sunday.

The 63-year-old opposition leader is no longer able to eat and is suffering from low blood pressure and dehydration. On Friday Ms Suu Kyi was put on an intravenous drip, but since then the authorities have not permitted doctors to visit her.

The opposition has urgently called on Myanmar's military rulers to allow her to receive medical attention. The NLD says her physician has been arrested.

A doctor for the 63-year-old was allowed to see her on Friday and treat her for dehydration and low blood pressure, but a request for a follow-up visit on Saturday was not granted. She is rarely allowed to leave her compound and her visitors are severely restricted because she is under house arrest.

"We are worried about Daw Suu's health. Authorities should allow free access of her doctor to give Daw Suu the required medical treatment," said National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win. "Daw" is an honorific used for older women.

Nyan Win said that according to the doctor, Suu Kyi had lost her appetite and had not been eating properly for three or four days. He did not say what the cause of her problem was.

Suu Kyi, whose nonviolent advocacy for democracy won her the Nobel Peace Prize, is one of the world's most prominent political prisoners, and her release has long been sought by the United Nations and many Western nations.

Her party won Myanmar's last elections in 1990, but the result was not recognised by the military, which has ruled the country since 1962.

Suu Kyi's primary doctor, Tin Myo Win, was detained for questioning by the authorities Thursday evening after an American man was arrested for allegedly sneaking into her closely guarded home.

Tin Myo Win had gone to Suu Kyi's home earlier that day to give her a routine monthly check up but was barred from entering by the police, who increased security there after the intrusion.

Suu Kyi - who has spent more than 13 of the last 19 years, including the past six, in detention without trial - is allowed virtually no visitors aside from her doctor. Her home is tightly guarded by police checkpoints and barbed-wire barricades.

No reason was given for detaining her doctor, adding to the mystery surrounding the American who was arrested Wednesday after swimming across a lake to Suu Kyi's home and staying there from Sunday night to Tuesday night, according to the state-run press.

Last week's press account of the intrusion said an American confessed that he swam 1 1/4 miles (2 kilometers) across Inya Lake to Suu Kyi's compound and "secretly entered the house." He was arrested when authorities spotted him swimming back.

The US Embassy - which said the man's name is John William Yettaw - has been asking the government for access to the arrested man, but communications with the authorities have been complicated because Friday through Sunday were public holidays.






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