YANGON (AFP) – A set of gates that became an enduring symbol of Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s years under house arrest are to be auctioned, a businessman who now owns them said Saturday.
The gates – painted in the yellow and red colours of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party – were once located at the entrance to the crumbling Yangon mansion where Myanmar’s most famous political prisoner was confined for much of the 1990s and 2000s because of her outspoken opposition to military rule.
“They are my own property. I bought them while I was working on landscaping in Daw Suu’s compound after her release from house arrest,” Soe Nyunt, a restaurant owner, told AFP, using an honorific for Suu Kyi.
The businessman, an NLD supporter, said he would sell the gates to raise money both for the construction of the party’s new headquarters, and for upcoming centenary celebrations marking the birth of General Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father and the founder of modern day Myanmar.
He will not accept less than US$200,000 for the gates, he added.
“I think the international community will be interested. So I will wait some time before personally auctioning them,” Soe Nyunt said.
During brief moments when restrictions against Suu Kyi were relaxed she would often greet well-wishers from the gates in acts of defiance against a junta that ruled Myanmar with an iron fist from 1962 to 2010.
When her house arrest was finally overturned that year – shortly before military rule was replaced with a quasi-civilian reformist government – large crowds of jubilant supporters surrounded the gates, clamouring to catch a glimpse of Suu Kyi and hand her bouquets of flowers.
The gates have since been replaced.
“If this great door can speak, it can narrate about the history of Burmese democracy combat for 25 years,” Soe Nyunt wrote on his Facebook page.
“The price will be start from 200 million Kyats ($200,000),” the restaurant owner told AFP. “Of course, I will sell to whoever can give more.”
Since her release, Suu Kyi has been elected an MP and her party is gearing up for crucial countrywide elections later this year. The NLD is expected to win if polls are free and fair.
But the veteran democracy campaigner cannot stand for the presidency because a clause in the constitution bans those with a foreign spouse or children. Her two sons are British, as was her late husband.