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Hunger strikers may heed Suu Kyi’s call

Aung Hmaing San initiated the hunger strike in Tharawaddy prison. (PHOTO: Lin Satt Aung and Arkar/DVB)

Detained activists, who are leading a hunger strike in Tharawaddy prison demanding the unconditional release of all political prisoners in Burma, said they are seriously considering Aung San Suu Kyi’s call to end the strike.

Tharawaddy hunger strike leaders Aung Hmaing San and Myo Myat San were hospitalised last week, when they began suffering health complications related to the hunger strike they initiated late last month.

A third hunger striker, Phyo Dana, was transferred to Rangoon General Hospital on 11 November when he collapsed en route to court.

The hunger strike has since gained momentum with activists in other prisons across Burma in a show of solidarity. As of last Friday, there were eight activists on hunger strike.

Aung Hmaing San and Myo Myat San were on Saturday visited at Rangoon General Hospital by National League for Democracy (NLD) executive member Win Htein, who carried a message from Suu Kyi urging them to end the strike.

Speaking to DVB from hospital, Aung Hmaing San said he is seriously considering the NLD chairperson’s request.

The NLD last week won a landslide victory in the country’s most transparent ever general election, and Suu Kyi looks set to head a new government, albeit in a non-presidential authority.

“I take it that the NLD is advising us what is appropriate to do at the given time and circumstance, and we must seriously consider [Suu Kyi]’s words,” said Aung Hmaing San.

“I would like to say that the hunger strike we are currently waging is not for an indefinite period of time – we have set a time limit and once it is reached, we will stop the strike. But at the moment, so we must continue. The time [to stop] hasn’t arrived yet– but it is not too far from now.”

NLD’s Win Htein told DVB that his party is urging the activists to end their hunger strike to avoid any negative impact during the democratic transition period.

“It is Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s wish to ensure tranquillity and calm in the transition period following the election win – we understand and respect [Aung Hmaing San’s] bravery and capacity, but the democratic transition period is a delicate time,” he said. “We are concerned that if something happens [to someone] right now, there could be negative consequences creating opportunities for malicious people, leading to unrest.”

He added that the health of the two hunger strike leaders has been improving since they were treated in hospital.