Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi celebrated her birthday on Sunday with her supporters for the first time in eight years, calling for peace and national reconciliation.
“On my birthday I would like to focus on peace,” the Nobel laureate said as she marked her 66th birthday following her release in November last year after nearly eight years of house arrest.
“If someone asked me what my birthday wish is, ‘I would say peace, prosperity, and harmony,’” she told more than 1,000 people at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Rangoon.
“In order to develop and prosper, the first thing we need is peace. So this is my birthday prayer, that we can all live in peace,” she said.
Her calls for peace came amid bloody clashes between Kachin ethnic minority rebels in the north of the country and government troops in recent days, shattering a 17-month ceasefire agreement.
Despite the fighting, the Kachin Independence Organization, the rebels political arm, marked Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday with a prayer service and cake at their headquarters in Kachin state.
Aung San Suu Kyi had spent most of her birthdays for the past 20 years under detention after her party won the 1990 election by a landslide but was prevented from taking power by the ruling military junta.
She was released from house arrest in November, days after the junta held national elections denounced by international critics as a sham, and the introduction of a quasi-civilian government.
Aung San Suu Kyi called for cooperation with other groups to strive for national reconciliation.
“As for [achieving] peace in our country, I cannot do it alone; neither can our organization do it alone,” she said.
“As everyone knows, we have been trying to achieve national reconciliation for 20 years. National reconciliation cannot be achieved without peace…. For peace and national reconciliation, we will build a system that we all want,” she said.
The opposition and other supporters mark Women’s Day on June 19, Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday, instead of on July 3, the government-designated date.
Imprisoned activist Min Ko Naing, a student leader during the 1988 popular uprising and now the most well known dissident in Burma after Aung San Suu Kyi herself, composed a song from prison to mark the occasion.
The song, “Return of the Pan Tra Empress,” recalls an empress from Burmese history.
Aung San Suu Kyi also received a visit from her youngest son, Kim Aris, who flew in from the U.K. for her birthday.
She will this week meet a high-level team from the European Union heading to Burma for exploratory talks with the new government.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.