Crime and Punishment
By The Irrawaddy
MARCH, 1999 - VOLUME 7 NO.3
Oppostion leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband Michael Aris is gravely ill with cancer. Now it is up to the junta to decide whether they will have a last reunion. Kyaw Zwa writes.
Yhe generals in Rangoon want "The Lady" to leave. Attacks on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi are a regular feature in state-controlled newspapers, and last year, the junta organized a protest and hired thugs to express the "people’s will."
"Deport Kalaphyu Maya Suu Kyi," the rabble chanted, using a derogatory term meaning "wife of a foreigner." Suu Kyi’s British husband, Dr. Michael Aris, has had to bear the wrath of the generals though he is hardly involved in Burmese politics. His greatest crime, in the eyes of the junta, was conveying his wife’s messages to the international community following his visits to her in house arrest.
His punishment: for the past three years he has been banned from entering Burma to see his wife.
While Suu Kyi was under house, Aris and their two sons were allowed to see "the Iron Lady" no more than five times. After her release in 1995, there was a short family reunion.
A few weeks ago, news arrived at Suu Kyi’s home that her husband is gravely ill with cancer.
Reports from London said that Aris was suffering from prostate cancer that had spread to his spine and lungs. Doctors said they did not expect him to live long.
The Burmese government has refused to issue a visa to allow Aris into the country.
In a recent statement, the junta professed sympathy towards the dying man, but said the country lacked proper medical facilities for him.
"While Mr Aris’s visa application is currently under review, the government suggests that it is more humane for a person in perfect health to make the journey to fulfill the terminally ill husband’s wish to see her," read an official statement.
The New Light of Myanmar, the junta’s mouthpiece, has accused foreign governments of conspiring with Suu Kyi to exploit the illness of Aris. The paper said that it is a political ploy to discredit the government.
It was reported that Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Sultan of Brunei and the United Nations had made appeals to the generals to grant Aris a visa.
Observers said it was unlikely Suu Kyi would ever leave Burma, as she did not believe she would be allowed to return.
"They take it personally. They just show that how much they hate her," one Bangkok-based analyst said.
Sources in London said, "The plan is they [the generals] want to break Suu Kyi’s spirit. They know that she isn’t leaving. They want to say that Suu Kyi is a stubborn and uncaring wife who could not even go to see her dying husband."
Don’t expect anything from the generals. It would be a miracle if they allowed a final reunion, despite what some regard as a "golden opportunity for the government to display a humanitarian gesture."
Indeed, an act of genuine compassion would be worth more than all the gold of Shwedagon. But for the regime, this tragic situation represents little more than a chance to punish Suu Kyi for choosing hope for her country over personal happiness.
Kyaw Zwa is a reporter based in Thailand.