06/19/2006, 00.00
MYANMAR

Hundreds celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday despite her house arrest

Demonstrations take place in Myanmar on pro-democracy leader's birthday despite her ill health and detention. The world and other Noble Peace Prize laureates express solidarity.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's 61st birthday was marked on Monday by demonstrations of solidarity in Yangon and around the world. For years Myanmar's ruling military junta has kept her under house arrest.

About 300 supporters and sympathisers of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), gathered in Yangon, where they prayed with Buddhist monks. Nine doves were set free and a hundred or so balloons were released into the sky as symbols of peace and freedom.

Near the NLD's headquarters people could be heard chanting "Free Aung San Suu Kyi."

Police detained NLD member Tun Tun who, wearing a tee shirt bearing Suu Kyi's image, held a solo demonstration near Yangon City Hall.

Police were out in force outside the NLD headquarters and Suu Kyi's residence on Yangon's University Avenue, closing it to traffic.

Ko Ko Gyi, a former student leader who attended the NLD events, said that this year's celebration of Suu Kyi's birthday was "livelier" than usual.

People gathered at pagodas and monasteries to show their solidarity with the pro-democracy leader, who has spent 10 of the past 17 years in detention, and has recently had health problems.

In the US, home of the largest Burmese expatriate community, members of the US Campaign for Burma staged solidarity demonstrations in more than 270 towns and cities across the country.

Twelve Nobel Peace laureates—including former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev—released a statement on Saturday at their annual meeting in the South Korean city of Gwangju, saying: "We, the Nobel Peace Laureates . . . believe that the political and physical freedom of our colleague Madame Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma must be guaranteed."

Daughter of Aung San, the father of modern Burma, Suu Kyi founded the NLD in 1988, calling for an end to the ruling military dictatorship in power since 1962. Her persecution began soon after, 1989.

In 1990, despite the fact that she was denied the right to run for office, her party won the first elections in 30 years. However, the junta tossed out the results refusing to cede power.

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