Scattered pro-democracy rallies were held across military-ruled Myanmar on Tuesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the assassination of the independence hero and father of the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was ousted in last year’s military takeover.
The protests generally dispersed within a short time to avoid confrontations with security forces. Since the army took power and detained Suu Kyi and thousands of supporters, 2,091 civilians including poets, activists, politicians and others had been killed in the crackdown, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The opposition National Unity Government, which was established by elected lawmakers and considers itself the country’s legitimate administration, broadcast a livestream of the commemoration ceremony on social media.
Mahn Winn Khaing Thann, the shadow prime minister of the government that the ruling military considers a terrorist organization, promised to fight until freedom is restored in Myanmar.
“I would like to reiterate that the entire population, including monks, students, and youth, can only exercise their freedom of choice and fully enjoy their rights after ending the military dictatorship” and restoring democracy, he said.
Gen. Aung San was 32 when he was gunned down by a group of armed men in uniform in Yangon, the country’s biggest city. A political rival, former Prime Minister U Saw, was tried and hanged for plotting the assassination less than six months before the country, then called Burma, achieved its independence from British colonial rule.
In Yangon, neighborhoods heard wailing sirens and car horns bellowing out for one minute at 10:37 a.m., the time of the 1947 attack that also killed six Cabinet members and two other officials.
Photos and videos showed protesters carrying banners and chanting “Eradicate racism, there are more than nine martyrs” in Yangon.
An annual official ceremony was held at Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon, near the foot of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.
Neither Suu Kyi, who is under arrest, nor Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who heads the ruling military council, attended the event. The highest-ranking official there was Vice-Senior Gen. Soe Win, vice chairman of the military council. An official of the ceremony’s subcommittee laid a wreath on behalf of Suu Kyi’s family.
Suu Kyi, 77, has not been seen in public apart from one photo shown on state television in May 2021, taken inside a court at the start of criminal proceedings against her.
Suu Kyi has been sentenced to 11 years in prison and was transferred from a secret detention location to a custom-built solitary facility at a prison in the capital Naypyitaw last month.
She is being tried on a slew of legal cases brought by the military. Her supporters and independent analysts say the charges are politically motivated and an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power.
The historic secretariat office building where the 1947 attack took place, and Bogyoke Aung San Museum, the last residence of Aung San and his family before his assassination, were reopened to the public under strict safety protocols after being closed for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residents who live near the sites said security was tight and few visitors were seen on nearby roads coming to pay respects.