RANGOON — It was a cloudy June morning in Rangoon, but the people gathered outside the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters were in a sunny mood to celebrate the birthday of Burma’s democracy icon, Aung Sun Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi turned 68 on Wednesday and, unlike last year when she was touring Europe on June 19, this year she was able to celebrate her birthday with hundreds of her supporters at the NLD’s office in Rangoon.
“The birthday wish I want most for this year is, ‘May all our NLD comrades have mutual loyalty, respect and understanding until we reach our goal,’” the Nobel laureate told an audience made up of diplomats, politicians, NLD members and journalists.
Suu Kyi said she wanted to mark her birthday by thanking people, in Burma and abroad, for their love, kindness and support for the NLD’s cause.
“I feel sorry that I can’t say thank you to anyone personally who has prayed for us,” she said.
In remarks to the assembled revelers, NLD senior patron Tin Oo wished Suu Kyi “successes for her cause.
“Here’s my birthday wish for her: That all her ambitions for the country succeed.”
Tin Oo added that he saw no harm in Suu Kyi’s presidential ambitions, which were aired explicitly by the opposition leader for the first time two weeks ago.
“We all need to understand the fact that she needs a position that will enable her to work for the good of the country,” said the former military chief of the Burmese Army from 1974-76, attracting a big round of applause from the audience.
“So, I want to plead to the army as an ex-commander-in-chief—please support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to make it [her eligibility for the presidency] possible,” Tin Oo added.
Suu Kyi is currently barred from running for president, due to a clause in the 2008 military-drafted Constitution that prohibits anyone from running for the post whose spouse or family members are foreign nationals. Her deceased husband was a British citizen, as are her two sons.
Meanwhile, at about noon on Wednesday nearly 200 people, among them Buddhist monks and women, gathered at the National Blood Department in Rangoon to donate blood in commemoration of Suu Kyi’s birthday.
“We are just honoring our chairperson on her birthday,” said Khin Maung Win, president of the NLD in Lanmadaw Township, who organized the event.
The Irrawaddy reporter Htet Naing Zaw contributed to this report.