ANGON, June 19, 2010 (AFP) - Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is spending her 65th birthday Saturday under house arrest as activists hold protests around the globe and world leaders call for the junta to free her.
The military regime has kept the Nobel Laureate in detention for almost 15 years and she has been barred from running in upcoming elections that critics have denounced as a sham aimed at entrenching the generals' power.
|New Year’s Day, 1972, Chelsea registry office in London. Aung San Suu Kyi and Michael Aris marry, aged 26 and 25 respectively Photograph: Private Aris Family Collection
Suu Kyi's party won the last vote in 1990 but was never allowed to take office. A UN working group this week pronounced her detention a breach of international human rights law, prompting new calls for her release.
In a birthday message, US President Barack Obama hailed Suu Kyi's “determination, courage, and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change”.
“I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens,” he said, using the country's former name.
The woman known in Myanmar simply as “The Lady” remains the most powerful symbol of freedom in a country where the army rules with an iron fist.
The opposition leader is expected to spend a quiet day at her lakeside mansion, where she lives with two female assistants, cut off from the outside world without telephone or Internet access.
Her supporters plan to throw a small party at one of their houses in northern Yangon in her absence.
Members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) are planting about 20,000 saplings around Myanmar to mark her birthday and plan to send spicy food to her home to share with workers doing renovations.
“We believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's political spirit will keep growing as long as the trees grow,” said lawyer Aung Thein, an active NLD figure. ÒDawÓ is a term of respect in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Events to mark her birthday are scheduled in cities around the world, ranging from candlelight vigils in Tokyo and Auckland to a solidarity rally in Washington.
|1970/1980 on the lawn of her father-in-law’s house in Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland, Aung San Suu Kyi plays with her two sons, Alexander (in the braces) and Kim. Photograph: Private Aris Family Collection. courtesy Guardian, UK
Supporters have also posted messages of support on Facebook and other websites.
Suu Kyi's NLD is no longer recognised by the junta as an official party, having refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register -- a move that would have forced it to expel its leader and other members in detention.
Suu Kyi had her incarceration lengthened by 18 months in August last year after being convicted over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her home, and there are fears her detention may be extended again.
”Her continued detention and that of more than 2,100 other political prisoners in Burma contravenes international human rights law and casts a long shadow over planned elections in the country,” said Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Her dedication to non-violence in pressing for change earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and placed her -- along with Nelson Mandela -- as among the world's foremost voices against tyranny.