Myanmar’s former State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is suffering from “urgent” dental issues in detention but junta authorities have ignored her request for permission to seek treatment, sources have told Radio Free Asia.
The 78-year-old Suu Kyi, who was sentenced to 27 years in prison, requested approval to visit a dentist outside of detention to treat gingivitis – a form of gum disease – and severe toothaches, but had yet to receive permission as of Tuesday, a source with ties to the place where she is being held in the capital Naypyidaw told RFA Burmese.
Prison authorities have reported the matter to the junta’s Ministry of Interior, but have received no response, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal.
The source said that Suu Kyi was examined by a prison doctor, but requires a dental specialist to deal with her condition. He said that the head of the deposed National League for Democracy, or NLD, party remains in prison, despite reports in August that she had been transferred to house arrest.
Bo Bo Oo, a former representative of the NLD in Yangon region, said that Suu Kyi must be allowed to receive treatment.
“When it comes to some health issues related to ears, eyes, bones and dental diseases, only the relevant specialist clinics can provide sufficient medical treatment,” he said. “She needs to get proper treatment at a dental hospital.”
He said that Suu Kyi and other political prisoners were “illegally detained” by the military following its February 2021 coup d’etat and expressed concern for their health, citing poor conditions in the nation’s prisons.
Vomiting and ‘unable to eat’
Suu Kyi’s son, Kim Aris, told the BBC that his mother is being “denied” treatment as the junta had “blocked prison authorities’ request” for “urgent care.”
The 46-year-old, who is based in the U.K., said his mother has been vomiting and endures “severe dizziness” due to her ill health. He said the pain had left her “unable to eat.”
The BBC also cited “long-time acquaintances” of the Nobel laureate as saying that she suffers from chronic gum disease and low blood pressure, as well as a source familiar with the matter who claimed that she has been served soft food and a medicated jelly intended to relieve her toothaches.
Attempts by RFA to reach the Naypyidaw Prison Department for comment on whether she would be allowed access to medical care outside of where she is being held went unanswered Wednesday.
Special approval needed
According to law, any inmate serving a sentence of more than five years must obtain permission from the Ministry of Interior to be taken outside of prison – a process that can take up to one month.
However, legal experts said that in cases where urgent health care is required, there is a procedure that allows for a verbal order granting such a request.
“As Aung San Suu Kyi is a state-level prisoner and since she is elderly, she should be allowed to seek the medical treatment she urgently needs as a special case,” said a Yangon-based lawyer who declined to be named for security reasons, citing the allowance of permission granted by verbal order.
Political commentator Than Soe Naing said he believes that the junta is denying Suu Kyi the right to seek treatment to “deliberately harm her” and called for international pressure seeking her release.
“They think that it is best if Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer in Myanmar politics,” he said. “As long as she is in the hands of the junta, Aung San Suu Kyi’s fate is uncertain. That’s why the world should pressure the junta to release her or provide better conditions for her.”
The junta sentenced Suu Kyi 33 years in prison on 19 charges, but on Aug. 1 pardoned her for five of the cases, reducing her term to 27 years.
Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.