RANGOON — The National League for Democracy (NLD) is gearing up for “a whole year” of celebrations to commemorate Gen. Aung San’s 100th birthday, party members told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
The festivities will officially kick off on Feb. 13 next year, 100 years to the date that the general was born in Nat Mauk, Magwe Division, in 1915.
The martyred Aung San was a Burmese revolutionary and nationalist, founder of the modern Burma Army, and considered to be the metaphorical father of modern-day Burma, as well as being the actual father of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who serves as chairman of the NLD. The 32-year-old independence leader was assassinated on July 19, 1947, in Rangoon’s Secretariat building.
Win Htein, an NLD central executive committee member, said the party itself would celebrate Aung San’s birthday in advance of next year, beginning this month.
“We’re going to celebrate with performances and commemorations until the second week of February. Then we will work with other organizations to celebrate for the whole of next year,” he said.
Celebrations will include contests in poetry and photography, as well as public speaking events in the three months leading up to Feb. 13.
“Some organizations will be celebrating the birthday township by township, as well as in Nat Mauk, the bogyoke’s hometown in Magwe Division,” he said, referring to Aung San by the Burmese word for general. “There will be big celebrations before and after February 13.”
The party’s leader Suu Kyi is expected to travel to Nat Mauk to celebrate her father’s centenary on Feb. 13. Aung San was born to Daw Suu and the lawyer U Pha.
“There will be a big celebration in Nat Mauk such as a nyeint pwe, zat pwe [traditional Burmese dances] and other performance shows will be included for the whole week,” Win Htein said.
The independence hero Aung San and seven of his colleagues were assassinated in 1947, shortly before the country gained independence from Britain.
Suu Kyi—for decades Burma’s iconic pro-democracy leader—was just 2 years old when her father was killed in a plot masterminded by his political rival U Saw. The NLD chairwoman still lives in the colonial-era mansion on the shores of Inya Lake where she spent most of her childhood.
The Aung San commemorations are hardly the only big event on the NLD’s calendar next year. Burma’s largest opposition party is also preparing to contest national elections in late 2015 that will mark the first time the party has fielded candidates in a general election in more than 20 years.
Aung San, almost universally revered in Burma, remains a potent political symbol in the country. The former military junta phased out pictures of the general on the country’s banknotes after a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 was crushed with brutal force.
Maung Maung Oo, an NLD member in Rangoon’s Insein Township, said that some groups would campaign to raise awareness in the former capital about Aung San’s milestone birthday next year.
“Now Pan Ye Lan, a local fundraising group, is campaigning with the NLD for bogyoke’s birthday, starting from Dec. 1, so it will be eight days total to campaign in four districts in Rangoon Division,” he said.
He added that the NLD was taking the lead in organizing events for Aung San’s birthday because of the party chairwoman’s familial link to the general.
“We will have to do more than others for our bogyoke’s birthday,” he said.