Burmese TV Broadcasts Martyrs Day Ceremony

By Aye Aye Win 19 July 2012

RANGOON—Burmese state television broadcast a memorial ceremony for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s revered independence hero father for the first time in decades on Thursday, the latest sign of change in the former pariah nation.

The day marks the 65th anniversary of the 1947 assassination of opposition leader Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San.

Burma’s former military junta played down the event for more than 20 years as part of efforts to stem the popularity of Suu Kyi, who has led a pro-democracy movement since 1988 and was kept under house arrest for 15 years. The junta ceded power last year to a civilian government dominated by retired army officers, which has since embarked on a program of major political and financial reforms that have been lauded by the international community.

On Thursday, Martyr’s Day ceremonies were broadcast live on state television, and the government dispatched one of the nation’s two vice presidents to attend. Last year, the government’s top representative was the mayor of the largest city, Yangon.

With flags flying at half staff, Vice President Sai Mauk Kham joined Suu Kyi as she laid three baskets of flowers in front of her father’s tomb in Yangon, near the foot of towering golden Shwedagon pagoda. Sai Mauk Kham laid a wreath of white orchids and saluted the slain leader as a solemn two-minute silence was observed.

Aung San was 32 years old when he was gunned down on July 19, 1947, along with six Cabinet ministers and two other officials. He is considered the architect of Burma’s independence from Britain, which it achieved several months after his death.

Sao Kai Hpa, the son of Shan leader Mongon Sawba Sao San Tun—who was gunned down in the same attack—welcomed the fact that the government had decided to send a high-level official to pay its respects.

“It is a change in the right direction and it is a way of showing gratitude to those who gave up their lives for the country’s independence,” he said.