BANGKOK -- Myanmar’s military-ruled government and its opponents on Tuesday marked the 75th anniversary of the assassination of independence hero Gen. Aung San, the father of the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Scattered pro-democracy rallies were held Tuesday in several cities across the country commemorating Aung San, six Cabinet colleagues and two other officials who were killed 75 years ago at a Cabinet meeting less than six months before the country, then called Burma, achieved its independence from British colonial rule.
Aung San was 32 years old when he was gunned down by a group of armed men in uniform in the secretariat office in Yangon, the country’s biggest city. A political rival, former Prime Minister U Saw, was tried and hanged for plotting this political assassination.
Tuesday's protests, generally dispersed within a short time to avoid confrontations with security forces, also paid tribute to those who have died protesting the military takeover in February last year that ousted Suu Kyi and her elected government.
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.
Photos and videos on social media showed protesters carrying banners and chanting “Eradicate racism, there are more than nine Martyrs” in Yangon.
As of Monday, 2,091 civilians including poets, activists, politicians and others had been killed by the security forces since February 2021, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
An official memorial ceremony was held, as every year, at Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Yangon, near the foot of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda.
The historic secretariat office building where the attack took place and Bogyoke Aung San Museum, the last residence of Aung San and his family just before his assassination, which had been closed for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were reopened to the public under strict safety protocols.
Residents who live near the memorial sites said security was tight and few visitors were seen on nearby roads coming to pay respects. They said the scene was very different from when Suu Kyi’s government ruled.
Neither Suu Kyi, who is under arrest, nor Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who currently heads its government and ruling military council, attended the ceremony this year. Vice-Senior Gen. Soe Win, vice-chairman of the military council, was the highest-ranking official in attendance. An official of the ceremony's subcommittee laid a wreath on behalf of Suu Kyi’s family.
Suu Kyi, 77, who was arrested when Myanmar’s military seized power from her elected government in February last year, 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 now being tried on a slew of legal cases brought by the military at a new facility constructed in the same prison compound. Suu Kyi’s supporters and independent analysts say all the charges against her are politically motivated and an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power.
The opposition National Unity Government, which was established by elected lawmakers and considers itself the country’s legitimate administrative body, broadcasted a livestream of the commemorating ceremony on social media. The military has branded NUG as a terrorist organization.
Mahn Winn Khaing Thann, Prime Minister of NUG, promised to fight the military alongside the people until the revolution succeeds.
“I would like to reiterate that the entire ethnic population, including monks, students, and youth, can only exercise their freedom of choice and fully enjoy their rights after ending the military dictatorship and flourishing the federal democracy system," he said. “Therefore, I would like to make a promise that we will work hard until the success of the spring revolution that we are carrying out together with the people.”