Myanmar has been gripped by fears for the health of its de facto leader and longtime democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi this week following her travel to the United States and Britain.
The health of the 71-year old Suu Kyi has long been a subject of speculation in the Southeast Asian state. Since her release in 2011 from house arrest, there have been occasional health scares, including during her domestic campaigning and whirlwind tour of Europe in 2012.
Another health scare occurred over the weekend when Suu Kyi arrived back in Yangon on Sunday evening but had not been able to greet supporters waiting outside the airport. A picture widely circulated on social media had showed her in a wheelchair.
On Monday, the government issued an official statement indicating that her health was stable but that she was suffering from exhaustion and needed rest after more than two weeks of travel. The statement said that she had been diagnosed with a gastric problem from not eating regular meals and arthritis in her neck from excessive computer use.
“She had a tight schedule with a lot of events [to attend] while she was in the United States,” Zaw Htay, spokesman of the President’s Office, said.
“She got tired because she has only had a few opportunities to rest and because of traveling to different time zones,” he said. “Although she got very tired, her health condition is not critical. Her health is stable, but she needs to take some rest for a while.”
Since her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), secured a landslide victory in the first openly contested general election in a quarter century last November, Suu Kyi has occupied several key positions including the newly created role of state counselor. Though she is widely regarded as the country’s de facto leader, Myanmar’s constitution prevents her from becoming president.
Suu Kyi’s scheduled meeting with Myanmar businessmen Wednesday has been canceled, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Information. Zaw Htay said the decision was unrelated to her health and that more time was needed to prepare for the event.