The Myanmar Times
The Myanmar Times

Officials downplay state counsellor health scare

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s two-week trip abroad ended with a frenzy of speculation and official assurances that the state counsellor’s health was not in serious question after she was reportedly seen arriving at Yangon International Airport in a wheelchair on September 25.

After the state counsellor reportedly was seen being transported from Yangon International Airport in a wheelchair, ministry officials are working overtime to staunch rumours that her illness is attributable to anything other than gastritis. Photo: EPAAfter the state counsellor reportedly was seen being transported from Yangon International Airport in a wheelchair, ministry officials are working overtime to staunch rumours that her illness is attributable to anything other than gastritis. Photo: EPA

Social media was abuzz yesterday as photos purportedly showing the 71-year-old in a wheelchair circulated online. The authenticity of the images could not be independently verified by The Myanmar Times.

A throng of supporters gathered to welcome her at the airport on the evening of September 25, when poor lighting made the health condition of Myanmar’s de facto leader difficult to ascertain, with the ensuing uncertainty fuelling speculation online.

But National League for Democracy central executive committee member U Win Htein told The Myanmar Times that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s health condition was “nothing serious”.

“There is nothing serious with her health situation. It is fine,” he said yesterday.

The Office of the State Counsellor also sought to allay fears over Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s well-being, releasing a statement that detailed symptoms stemming from her rigorous overseas itinerary.

“After checking the health condition with doctors, there was only weakness [caused by] not being able to rest during the busy schedule, a stomach-ache from not being able to eat properly and having aches from using the computer for a long time,” read the statement, adding that there was no cause for serious concern about her condition.

Ahead of the state counsellor’s return, the Ministry of Information announced on September 25 that a meeting between her and prominent businesspeople scheduled for September 28 in Nay Pyi Taw would be postponed. Inadequate preparations for the event was cited as the reason for the rescheduling, however.

A former spokesperson for then-president U Thein Sein, U Ye Htut, took to Facebook yesterday to criticise what he said was an overly demanding overseas itinerary.

“President U Thein Sein was also in his 70s, the same age as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. And he has a machine in his heart,” he said, referring to U Thein Sein’s pacemaker. “When the [former] Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Win arranged the president’s trip plans, he always thought about avoiding a situation of continuous working.”

He added that the health scare served to highlight the current government’s structure with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as its focal point, advising a rethink to better delegate authority to lower levels of responsibility.

Several calls from The Myanmar Times to Dr Tin Myo Win, the state counsellor’s personal physician, went unanswered yesterday.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi departed for London on September 10 and flew days later to Washington, where she met US President Barack Obama and joined several other events, including a tour of the capital’s National Mall. She addressed the UN General Assembly in New York on September 21.