Myanmar’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is suffering from symptoms of low blood pressure, including dizziness and loss of appetite, but has been denied treatment at qualified facilities outside the prison system, a medical worker said on Thursday.
Suu Kyi, 78, who was arrested in February 2021 when the army seized power from her elected government, fell ill late last month, said the medical worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being punished by the military authorities.
Several countries raised questions and concerns over the health of Suu Kyi at summits hosted by Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN this week, a US State Department official, Daniel Kritenbrink, said on Thursday.
The Nobel laureate, serving 27 years in detention, is ailing, and the military government has denied requests for an external physician to see her, sources familiar with the matter said earlier this week, adding that she is being treated by a prisons department doctor.
Separately, a military officer who also insisted on anonymity confirmed a report by the BBC’s Myanmar-language service that Suu Kyi was suffering a severe toothache that left her unable to eat and caused vomiting.
However, the ruling military council’s spokesperson, Maj Gen Zaw Min Tun, said Suu Kyi was in good health, the report said.
The BBC said Suu Kyi’s son Kim Aris, who lives in Britain, responded to the report with a text saying: “To deny a sick prisoner access to recommended medical care is callous and cruel.”
Phone calls by the Associated Press news agency to Myanmar’s prison department for comment went unanswered.
Suu Kyi is serving a combined 27-year sentence after being convicted of a string of criminal charges that her supporters and independent analysts say were concocted to discredit her and legitimise the military’s seizure of power.
She initially received a total sentence of 33 years, but Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military government, granted her clemency in five cases and cut her sentence by six years as part of a broader amnesty for more than 7,000 prisoners to mark a Buddhist religious holiday in August.
Suu Kyi receives full-time medical care from a doctor assigned to the main prison in the capital, Naypyidaw, whose duties included taking her blood pressure at least three times a day when she fell ill last month, the medical worker said.
She also receives a monthly medical checkup from more senior physicians from the military hospital in Naypyidaw.
Not only are details about Suu Kyi’s health unclear, but even her exact whereabouts are not publicly known.
There were reports in late July that Suu Kyi might be transferred from Naypyidaw prison to house arrest as part of the clemency action, but the military authorities have not confirmed that.
Suu Kyi’s lawyers have not been able to meet with her this year, said a legal official who asked not to be identified because he is not authorised to release information about her cases. Her lawyers have been forbidden to reveal information about her by a gag order issued in late 2021.
They have applied five times for permission to meet with Suu Kyi since they last saw her in person in December but have yet to receive a response, though they are allowed to deliver food and other essentials for her to the prison, the legal official said.
The official said her legal team filed arguments to the Supreme Court on Tuesday asking it to accept six special appeals filed on Suu Kyi’s behalf to further reduce her sentences. The six cases include allegations of abuse of authority in renting parcels of land and property in Naypyidaw and Yangon, the country’s biggest city, at below-market prices for a foundation named after her mother that she chaired.
Appeals of Suu Kyi’s convictions are still being processed on charges including election fraud, breaching the official secrets acts and six other corruption allegations, legal officials have said.