Suu Kyi Memorabilia to be Auctioned at $200k

By San Yamin Aung 31 January 2015

RANGOON — The gate and house number plate that for decades stood between adoring supporters and Burma’s formerly imprisoned democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, will be auctioned off to help fund celebrations honoring her father during the centennial year of his birth.

Bidding will begin at a staggering 200 million kyats (US$200,000) and will be underway before Feb. 13, Gen. Aung San’s birthday. Since Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest in 2010, the items have been in the possession of Soe Nyunt, a restaurant owner and close ally of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

Soe Nyunt announced the auction via social media on Friday, stating that all proceeds would be given to the NLD through two channels: a committee fund for holding yearlong celebrations honoring the late Gen. Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father and Burma’s much-loved independence hero; and a separate fund that will contribute to the construction of a new NLD office in Rangoon.

“I have kept [the artifacts] lovingly because they are historic resources. If this great door could speak, it would narrate the history of a 25-year struggle for democracy in Burma,” he said in a Facebook post on Friday.

Aung San Suu Kyi, chairwoman of the NLD, spent more than 15 years under house arrest confined within the gates of 54 University Avenue. The gate became a symbol of her imprisonment, and was the site of many historic speeches and public gatherings.

Suu Kyi made a brief public appearance when Buddhist monks gathered outside her residence during the Saffron Revolution in 2007, and again met enormous crowds at the gate upon her release in November 2010.

“When she was last released from house arrest, both the house and the garden were damaged,” said Soe Nyunt, speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Saturday. “I took responsibility for landscaping and repairing her garden at that time.”

He said that due to his closeness with Suu Kyi and her estate, he was able to purchase the gate when the property was renovated. The nameplate fell down and was nearly lost among other detritus, but he kept that as well.

“I knew that it would be precious someday,” he said.

Soe Nyunt now owns the Royal Rose restaurant, a favorite venue for NLD events, and serves as vice-chairman of the committee tasked with organizing events throughout the year celebrating Gen. Aung San.

He said that he decided now was the time to sell the items because the committee will hold major events in Rangoon from Feb. 12-14, which will include art exhibitions and other entertainment to commemorate Burma’s martyred hero.

Gen. Aung San was assassinated along with several members of his cabinet in July 1947, just before Burma was formally granted independence from British rule.

“I’m auctioning these [items] as a citizen, this does not concern the [NLD] party,” he said.

Local and foreign bidders will have equal opportunity to bid, he added.

The historic gate was originally installed at Suu Kyi’s residence around 1988, when she returned to Burma after years in the United Kingdom and formed the NLD. Its original color was sky blue, but it was painted yellow and red in 1995, when she was released from her first detention, according to her former chef, Pho Lay. It was last repainted in 2008.