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Myanmar: No proof of hunger strike

Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since her arrest in May.
Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since her arrest in May.

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(CNN) -- Myanmar's military government says it is "confused" by a charge from the U.S. State Department that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has begun a hunger strike in protest at her detention.

Although it did not deny the State Department's allegation, a statement released on Monday questioned how Washington had come up with its information.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her pro-democracy work, has been held in what the Myanmar authorities call protective custody for the past three months.

She was originally arrested in May following a clash in the north of the country between her supporters and a pro-government group in which several people are reported to have died.

Since then, she has been kept in isolation following what the government says was the discovery of a plot to assassinate her.

In a statement issued Sunday, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Washington had learned that Aung San Suu Kyi had begun a hunger strike to protest her detention and said Washington was "deeply concerned for her safety and well-being."

"The Burmese (Myanmar) authorities have full responsibility for her health, having placed her in so-called protective custody since a May 30 premeditated attack on her convoy," he added.

The statement has raised concern from human rights groups, among them Amnesty International which renewed its call Monday for the Myanmar government to free Aung San Suu Kyi immediately.

Amnesty said it was unable to confirm reports that she had begun a hunger strike, but said the issue remained that Aung San Suu Kyi "should never have been arrested in the first place."

'Confused'

Children of Myanmar exiles join one of dozens of demonstrations around the world calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom.
Children of Myanmar exiles join one of dozens of demonstrations around the world calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom.

In its own response to the State Department's allegation, Myanmar government spokesman Col. Hla Min called on Washington to show sources and proof to back up its claims.

"(The) Myanmar Government as well as governments around the world are confused and we firmly believe it is quite odd for the United States State Department to make such a claim without stating any sources to verify its allegation," he said.

"Anyhow, the Government of Myanmar shares the view stated by the U.S. Government that governments are fully responsible for the welfare of all its political prisoners."

Offering a counterpoint, the statement went on: "We also believe that governments are fully responsible for the security, well-being and interest of all its other citizens as well. Especially in our case, on the accountability of maintaining and safeguarding peace, stability and national unity, the interest and care for all the 52 million population of the Myanmar people together with the 135 different ethnic groups living in Myanmar."

Aung San Suu Kyi's the National League for Democracy won a sweeping victory in a general election in 1990, but Myanmar's military rulers refused to recognize the vote and held on to power.

Little has been heard of her since she was taken into detention in May and it is unclear where she is being held.

Human rights groups say they have received reports that she is being held in a special compound inside the notorious Insein jail in the capital, Yangon.

Conditions in the jail, used to house many of Myanmar's political prisoners, have been described as filthy and inhumane by former inmates and diplomats who have visited it.

The Red Cross representative in Myanmar visited Aung San Suu Kyi in July at an undisclosed location. Michel Ducreaux said the pro-democracy leader was in good health and in high spirits.


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