Myanmar’s junta is endangering the life of jailed democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to her political party, which accused the military on Thursday of denying her medical treatment and food.
Since the generals usurped power in February 2021, putting an end to a decade-long democratic experiment and plunging the country into bloody chaos, the former state counsellor has been detained.
In recent days, local media reported that the 78-year-old Nobel laureate was experiencing vertigo, vomiting, and an inability to consume due to a tooth infection.
The National League of Democracy (NLD) said in a statement, “We are particularly concerned that she is not receiving adequate medical care and that she is not receiving healthy food or adequate housing, with the intent of endangering her life.”
“The military junta is solely responsible if Daw Aung San Aung San Suu Kyi’s health is not only compromised but also her life is in danger,”
During her 19-month trial in a junta court that human rights organisations criticised as a sham, Aung San Suu Kyi frequently missed court hearings on the basis of her health.
Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison, a sentence that was subsequently reduced by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.
Kim Aris, Aung San Suu Kyi’s son based in the United Kingdom, told the BBC last week that the junta is denying his mother treatment for vertigo and gum disease, despite the fact that he is not in direct contact with her.
Last week, a junta spokesperson told RFA that reports of Aung San Suu Kyi’s poor health were “rumours.” Zaw Min Tun stated, “Her doctors are taking care of her health, so she is suffering from nothing.”
The NLD stated that the junta was holding Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains immensely popular in Myanmar, as a “hostage…in secret places.”
The party urged the international community to “intensify efforts and exert pressure” for the liberation of Aung San Suu Kyi and all Myanmar political prisoners.
According to a local monitoring group, the junta has arrested over 24,000 individuals since the coup.
Aung San Suu Kyi was transferred to a prison compound in a different section of the expansive, military-built capital Naypyidaw in June 2022, after spending more than a year under house arrest.
There, she was no longer permitted her domestic staff of approximately ten individuals and was assigned military-selected helpers, according to RFA sources at the time.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s confinement in the isolated capital is a far contrast from the years she spent under house arrest during a previous junta, during which she became a world-renowned democracy leader.
During that time, she resided in the colonial-era lakeside mansion of her Yangon family and frequently addressed audiences from the other side of her garden wall.
The NLD has been decimated in the junta’s violent crackdown on dissent, with one former lawmaker executed by the junta in the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.
In March, the junta dissolved the party for failing to re-register in accordance with a strict new military-drafted electoral law, removing it from the 2025 elections it has indicated it may hold.
Residents, officials from armed ethnic groups, and an international campaign working to eradicate the weapons told RFA that Myanmar’s junta is using cluster munitions to attack rebel forces in ethnic areas of the country.
Cluster bombs, which can be fired from cannons or dropped from aircraft, detonate in midair, scattering and exploding dozens or hundreds of smaller bombs, which frequently murder or maim civilians.
Myanmar and the United States are not among the 123 nations that have signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty prohibiting the use of such weapons.
“Myanmar’s production and use of cluster bombs is of considerable concern, as these weapons indiscriminately kill and maim civilians. There is no justification for their use, according to Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, a researcher with the Cluster Munition Monitor, the research and monitoring arm of the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition.
“All governments must condemn this use of a prohibited weapon,” he stated.
The Cluster Munition Coalition stated in a report released on August 31 that the ruling junta has employed domestically-produced cluster munitions in attacks since 2021, including as recently as early June of this year.
According to the CMC’s report, the junta employed cluster munitions in attacks near the villages of Kon Tha, Nam Mae Kon, and Warisuplia in the Demoso municipality of Kayah state from February 17 to March 7.
The CMC also cited evidence that the Myanmar military used cluster bombs in an airstrike on Pan Pa village in Chin state’s Mindat township on April 16, which resulted in the deaths of three people, including a minor, and the injuries of seven others.
Thein Tun Oo, executive director of the pro-military Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, denied the use of cluster munitions by the military.
“As far as we know and as far as our research has taken us, we have never heard of the military employing cluster bombs,” he said.
“Does the opposing side have any evidence?” he inquired. “For example, the details of where and how a cluster weapon was dropped, [and] what the ground situation was like when it was dropped. They need these details to make an accusation.”
Radio Free Asia was unable to reach Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment.
Former military captain Kaung Thu Win, who joined the anti-regime civil disobedience movement, stated that unexploded sub-munitions from cluster bombs pose a threat to children and rural residents because they can explode with the contact of a hand.
“They will remain unexploded in forests, ditches, and forest valleys,” he declared. “They are concealed for a time and only detonate when children are playing nearby or when civilians enter the forest.”
Salai Htet Ni, spokesman for the Chin National Front, stated that the junta has been dumping cluster bombs in the Chin state of western Myanmar, including on Mount Victoria, where the ethnic Chin nationalist political organisation is based.
He said that when the junta dropped bombs from an aeroplane on the group’s headquarters, the explosions released submunitions that detonated repeatedly within a 61-meter (200-foot) radius.
“And if they strike a forest, all nearby trees and plants are [destroyed] and will not regrow,” he said.
An official from the information department of the Karenni National Defence Force reported seeing junta forces use cluster bombs to attack civilian communities in Kayah state, torching residences in villages and destroying entire neighbourhoods.
“The junta typically employs these highly explosive cluster bombs when attacking nonmilitary targets, civilian areas, and refugee camps,” he said. In 2023, the military began using 500-pound bombs, missiles, and cluster weapons frequently.
The junta’s use of these munitions against civilian targets is a violation of international law and a crime against humanity, said Banyar Khun Aung, executive director of the Karenni Human Rights Group.
“The purpose of these cluster bombs is to intentionally kill and destroy a large number of civilians, causing mass casualties and forcing them to flee to other areas,” he said. Obviously, this is a grave violation of human rights.