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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 16:23 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Suu Kyi's husband dies

Aung San Suu Kyi: Committed political leader

The husband of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has died at a hospital in Oxfordshire.

Matt Frei reports: "This is no ordinary tragedy"
Michael Aris was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer several months ago. He died on his 53rd birthday.

Dr Aris - a senior research fellow of Tibetan and Himalayan studies at St Antony's College, Oxford University - had been in negotiations with Burma's military government to visit his wife before he died.

[ image: Suu Kyi and Michael Aris]
Suu Kyi and Michael Aris
They last saw each other three years ago.

Ms Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, released a brief statement through diplomats after learning of her husband's death.

"On behalf of my sons, Alexander and Kim, as well as on my own behalf, I want to thank all those around the world who have supported my husband during his illness and have given me and my family love and sympathy," the statement said.

Ms Suu Kyi was with friends and diplomats when she learned of her husband's death.

Visas denied

The couple married in 1972 after they met while she was a student at Oxford. She agreed to wed Dr Aris on the provision that he would understand that she must return to Burma, if her people needed her.

The BBC's Simon Ingram: "The Burmese authorities came under pressure to show clemency"
In 1988 she returned to Burma to nurse her dying mother. During her visit a nationwide uprising against military rule erupted and she emerged as the movement's leader.

After her return, the Burmese authorities stalled and repeatedly denied Mr Aris's visa requests, insisting that Ms Suu Kyi "who is in perfect health" should travel to see him.

On Friday she received an offer by the Burmese authorities allowing her to visit her husband in the UK and return to Burma, but refused because of fears that she would not be readmitted.

'Pawn of Western imperialism'

Ms Suu Kyi, whose father, General Aung San, led Burma to independence, is the leader of the country's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy.

Although the NLD overwhelmingly won the 1990 general elections, the country's military leaders have ignored the results.

Ms Suu Kyi remains the military government's major political opponent, despite spending almost six years under house arrest. She was released in 1995.

The military authorities have often accused her of being a pawn of Western imperialism because of her marriage to a British citizen.

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