Detained Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Excluded From Martyrs’ Day Observance

Critics says the hopes of Aung San San Suu Kyi’s father and other slain independence figures remain unfulfilled.
2021-07-19
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Detained Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Excluded From Martyrs’ Day Observance Myanmar security forces stand guard at a roadblock outside the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, July 19, 2021.
AP

Detained Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was excluded by the military junta from annual Martyrs’ Day observances Monday honoring her father, Gen. Aung San, who led Myanmar to independence from British rule, while opponents of army rule staged protests in several big cities.

The ceremony honors Aung San and eight other members of his pre-independence interim government who were assassinated by a rival political group on July 17, 1947. Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, had attended the event throughout her long stints of house arrest under a previous military junta.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being detained by the military regime that overthrew her democratically elected government on Feb. 1, was neither invited to nor informed about the ceremony, which was broadcast live on television by junta, her lawyer told RFA.

“I asked her if she had made any arrangements for Martyrs’ Day, and she said that no one had told her anything about it,” defense attorney Khin Maung Zaw said, adding, “It is not unthinkable that a daughter should attend her father’s memorial service.”

“Also, as a leader of the state, as the daughter of the country’s leader, she should have been allowed to attend,” he said.

Toe Aung, Head of Public Relations of the Information Department of the Yangon City Development Committee, laid a wreath at the ceremony on behalf of Gen. Aung San’s family members, and ceremony organizers laid wreaths on behalf of the family members, only some of whom attended the day’s event, of the other political leaders killed in the July 19, 1947 shooting.

“The fallen leaders led by Gen. Aung San gave their lives to achieve independence and gradually democratize the country. But that goal has not yet been realized,” said Min Myint, a retired professor in the Department of Industrial Chemistry and the son of slain “martyr” Ohn Maung.

“We’d love to see peace and progress in education and the economic sectors and in social development, but now we’re seeing a lot of problems.”

“I’m very sorry for the country,” Min Myint said.

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The Myanmar flag is flown at half-staff over the Myanmar Fire Services Department building in Yangon, July 19, 2021. Photo: AP

Protests held

In some cities, young people defied police to hold brief ceremonies of their own on Monday to honor Myanmar’s fallen leaders.

“We held a protest march this morning to carry on the legacy of the fallen leaders who paid with their lives for the country’s independence,” said Khant Wai Phyo, a member of the protest organizing committee in Monywa, where police blocked off a bronze statue of Gen. Aung San in the city’s center.

“We also held a brief protest at 10:37 a.m. [the time when Aung San and his comrades were assassinated] together with another city ward to mark Martyrs’ Day,” Khant Wai Phyo said, adding that four young men were arrested, and around 30 motorcycles were confiscated, when security forces arrived at the scene of a ceremony held in the area.

In Myanmar’s largest city and former capital Yangon, protests marking Martyrs’ Day have been held in neighborhoods and online since July 16, with protesters also paying homage to the monks, students, and others in Myanmar who have died in the country’s struggle for democracy and human rights.

Maung Sein, a participant in the protests in Yangon, said that a succession of military coups in Myanmar over the last several decades have betrayed the wishes for the country held by Aung San and the others killed in 1947.

“Now, following the [Feb. 1] coup, they have killed anyone they wanted. We haven’t yet created the country that our great leaders wanted. Instead, we can simply say that our country has moved backward,” he said.

Myanmar troops and security forces have killed at least 900 anti-coup protesters in the months since the Feb. 1 overthrow of the country’s democratically elected civilian government, and have arrested thousands more.

A group of Myanmar nationals living in Malaysia also held a Martyrs’ Day commemoration on Monday, holding the observance online because of restrictions on public gatherings aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

No observances were held in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw, where local residents said that dozens of police were guarding Gen. Aung San’s statue in the city center, where thousands have traditionally gathered in previous years to pay tribute to their country’s fallen leaders.

Military academy bombed

In a sign the junta remains widely rejected, an explosion rocked the entrance to the Myanmar military’s Defense Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin, in Myanmar’s central Mandalay region on Sunday night, killing at least one service member and injuring two others, sources close to the military said.

The bomb was thrown at around 9:00 p.m. into a large group that had gathered as goods were being delivered for sale at an army market, one Pyin Oo Lwin resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I don’t know what they were actually doing, but I saw a car overturned, and there were about thirty people lying on the ground. I don’t know if they were dead or injured or just lying on the ground because of the blast,” he said.

Following the attack, the army troops stormed the Anisakan area outside the city, an area known to shelter anti-junta groups, the resident said.

Telephone calls seeking comment from military spokesperson Zaw Min Htun were not picked up on Monday.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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