Myanmar prisoners` hunger strike worries Suu Kyi

The 22 prisoners are demanding a better diet and other improvements.

Yangon: Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed concern on Thursday about the health of political prisoners who began a hunger strike two weeks ago.

Suu Kyi spoke after meeting US Senator John McCain, who is visiting Myanmar to assess prospects for reform under its new nominally civilian government.

The 22 prisoners on the strike are demanding a better diet and other improvements in their conditions, according to the Thailand-based Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which monitors the situation of an estimated 2,000 political detainees in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Suu Kyi told reporters she was worried about the health of the striking prisoners. "If the government continues to treat political prisoners like this, it is a sad affair," she said.

The hunger strike began after a government clemency program last month reduced all convicts` sentences by one year, leading to the release of more than 14,000 prisoners. However, only about 50 of those freed were political prisoners, because many of them are incarcerated with sentences of several decades.

McCain, speaking in Bangkok before he went to Myanmar, said he called on the government to release political prisoners. Their freedom has been a top demand of Western nations who criticise Myammar`s human rights record and maintain political and economic sanctions against its government until it undertakes reforms.

The Republican from Arizona and 2008 presidential candidate held talks with government officials on Wednesday in the capital, Naypyitaw, and state television aired footage of the meetings

The magazine "Pyi Myanmar" this week cited a prison official saying the prisoners had stopped their hunger strike on May 25 and were all in good health.

The prisoner support group in Thailand denied that report, however, and said seven prisoners had been placed in solitary confinement for undertaking the hunger strike.

Bureau Report

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