Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi turns 65 in confinement
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi turns 65 in confinement
By The Associated Press
Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 8:29 p.m.
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi marked her 65th birthday Saturday locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound as calls for her freedom erupted around the world.
President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Suu Kyi’s release in statements echoed at rallies and prayer vigils. Supporters threw a birthday party at the suburban Yangon home of a fellow opposition member. It was attended by more than 300 people but not the guest of honor.
A shadow of a Myanmarese is seen as she speaks at Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday celebration in New Delhi, India, Saturday, June 19, 2010. Suu Kyi marked her 65th birthday Saturday locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound as calls for her freedom erupted around the world. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Holding candles and yellow roses, they lit a birthday cake with 65 candles and released 65 doves into the sky while chanting, “Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” Plainclothes security watched and videotaped the event.
Suu Kyi has now spent 15 birthdays in detention over the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. She is the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.
A Myanmar refugee holds a candle during an event to celebrate the 65th birthday of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, June 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
“It is very sad that she cannot celebrate her birthday in freedom,” said her lawyer Nyan Win.
Confined to her home, Suu Kyi planned to celebrate by providing a lunch of chicken curry and an Indian-style flat bread for the three dozen construction workers helping to renovate her crumbling two-story mansion, Nyan Win said.
A Myanmar refugee living in Malaysia releases a pigeon during an event to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, June 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
The tight security surrounding Suu Kyi’s home allowed the delivery of a birthday cake and a bouquet of roses, orchids and lilies sent by political supporters. Members of her National League for Democracy party are planting 20,000 trees around the country, mostly on the grounds of Buddhist monasteries, to mark the occasion.
A confidante, Win Tin, made an impassioned plea for Suu Kyi’s release.
“To the international community I want to reiterate her words: ‘Please use your liberty to promote ours,'” said Win Tin, who co-founded the party with Suu Kyi and himself spent nearly 20 years jailed as a political prisoner.
A Myanmar refugee in a traditional costume holds a candle during an event to celebrate the 65th birthday of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, June 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Global condemnation over her imprisonment has failed to change the junta’s harsh attacks on all dissent or soften their stance on Suu Kyi, whose steely grace, charisma and popularity have remained in tact despite her long confinement.
Ahead of historic elections planned for later this year, Suu Kyi remains the biggest threat to the ruling junta. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been dominated by military rule since 1962.
The vote will be the first in two decades. Suu Kyi’s party overwhelmingly won the last election in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.
A protester eats a birthday cake during a rally outside the Myanmar Embassy at Manila’s financial district of Makati, Philippines, Friday, June 18, 2010. The protesters called for the release of Myanmar’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who turns 65 on Saturday. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Obama praised Suu Kyi’s “determination, courage and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change in Burma inspire all of us who stand for freedom and justice.”
“I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners,” Obama said in a statement.
The U.N. chief said he remains “deeply concerned” that Suu Kyi is still under house arrest.
“I have been persistently, consistently demanding that all the political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be released without condition as soon as possible so that they would be able to participate in the political process,” Ban said. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.
British Ambassador to Indonesia Martin Hatfull speaks to the media against a background of a large banner of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a press conference outside the British Embassy in Jakarta , Indonesia, Friday, June 18, 2010. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who will celebrate her 65th birthday on Saturday, has been detained by the country’s military ruler for 14 of the past 20 years. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana )
In Britain, where concern for the jailed democracy leader runs high, Prime Minister David Cameron wrote Suu Kyi an open letter telling her that he had “long found your example deeply inspiring.”
“The injustice of your continuing detention mirrors the injustice that the regime has inflicted on your country and your people for so many years,” Cameron wrote.
Britain’s Foreign Office encouraged people from around the world to post birthday greetings on Facebook that British diplomats have pledged to pass on to Suu Kyi’s representatives.
Refugee children from Myanmar hold posters of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they sing a song during an event to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Suu Kyi in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, June 18, 2010. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate will celebrate her 65th birthday on Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Under new election laws, Suu Kyi and other political prisoners – estimated at more than 2,000 – are effectively barred from taking part in the polls. The NLD has called the laws unfair and undemocratic and is boycotting the vote, which critics have dismissed as a sham designed to cement military rule. The party was disbanded after refusing to register for the elections by a May 6 deadline.
A refugee from Myanmar wears a T-shirt with a print of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she sings a song during an event to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, June 18, 2010. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate will celebrate her 65th birthday on Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)
Suu Kyi’s detention was extended by 18 months in August 2009 when she was convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest by briefly harboring an American intruder. The sentence will keep her locked away during the elections.
Birthday candles are lit in front of an image of Myanmar’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a small party of her 65th birthday at a home of a member of her party National League for Democracy Party Friday, June. 18, 2010 in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
Activists and politicians have rallied from Sydney to Brussels to wish the opposition leader a happy birthday and demand her release. More candlelight vigils, concerts and Buddhist prayer ceremonies were planned later Saturday in European and American cities.
The Associated Press