Aung San Suu Kyi Ailing

You might have heard about an incident earlier this week when some man (an American citizen) managed to swim across the lake guarding one side of the compound in Rangoon, Burma where dissident leader (and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate) Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house-arrest for over 19 years. It seems he even stayed there for a couple days; it was only when he tried to swim back out the way he came that the Burmese police captured him, after which 20 officers then paid a visit to the compound, probably just to see what was going on, to question the residents there (basically Suu Kyi and her assistants) and check whether the guy had left anything behind. But that event was fairly widely-reported, including most certainly in the English-language press.

What I find more interesting is this article in France’s Nouvel Observateur (co-credited to the French news agency AFP) about Aung San Suu Kyi herself: she is not doing very well these days. First of all, she is 63 years old; I suppose that is an age when it is still possible to be in pretty good shape, except that being confined as essentially a prisoner of the dictatorial government of what is a very poor country is probably pretty much the opposite sort of environment to that which you would need to remain fit and healthy. (The article also notes that she refuses to accept the food sent in to her by the government.) According to the spokesman for her political party, the National League for Democracy (abbreviated as LND), Nyan Win, she can’t eat anymore, her blood pressure is low, and she suffers from dehydration. (And it is interesting that all this is coming out now; obviously this has something to do with the lake-swimmer’s visit, if only in the sense that journalists managed to contacted spokesman Nyan Win for comment on that incident and then asked follow-up questions about her current situation in general.)

The article mentions that, formally, the order putting her in house-arrest is supposed expire at the end of this month. Still, there can be little doubt that, one way or another (like a simple extension to the order), her status will be little changed after that point. The bigger question is whether she will even still be alive by then. And another one: What happens when she does die? Recall that August-September 2007 already saw widespread anti-government protests, with a prominent role played by Buddhist monks, sparked by nothing more than a government decision to remove subsidies on the price of various fuels.

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