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Myanmar protesters wear flowers to mark Suu Kyi’s birthday

YANGON: Protesters make the three-finger salute and hold posters of Myanmar’s detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to mark her birthday as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon yesterday. —AFP

YANGON: Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar donned flowers in their hair yesterday to mark the birthday of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest and is due to face court again next week. Suu Kyi’s elected government was overthrown in a February 1 coup that sparked mass protests and renewed clashes between the military and ethnic rebel armies in border regions. Flowers tucked into a bun have long been a signature look of Suu Kyi, who turned 76 yesterday.

Many replicated the floral hairstyle and uploaded pictures onto social media across Myanmar for the occasion. Among them was Myanmar Miss Universe beauty queen Thuzar Wint Lwin, who wore red flowers in her hair and wrote: “May our leader be healthy.” In Yangon’s north, protesters put up posters on power lines wishing Suu Kyi a happy birthday and expressing solidarity. “Happy Birthday Mother Suu. We are right behind you,” the signs read. Some marched with black umbrellas and banners that read “freedom from fear” alongside pictures of Suu Kyi. In the border region of Karen state, some rebel soldiers were photographed holding their guns and yellow, white and purple posies, as well as single flowers tucked behind their ears.

Demonstrators in the south-eastern city of Dawei made a giant pink birthday cake and brought it to their street protest. The Noble Peace Prize Laureate’s international reputation was damaged after she defended Myanmar’s military over allegations of genocide against the ethnic minority Rohingya population in troubled Rakhine state in 2017.

Back in court

Not all Myanmar flower protest participants were full of praise for Suu Kyi. “I am involved in this campaign because now she is unfairly detained by the military and her civilian rights… and freedom is denied,” a 35-year-old activist told AFP, adding it wasn’t personal support. “After she is free from her detention, she will have to take full responsibility over her silence concerning the suffering of Rohingya and other ethnic groups.”

Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis sent birthday wishes to Suu Kyi from afar. “I wish you all the best for your health and strength… We stand with the people of Burma,” he said. The civilian death toll since the coup is estimated to be at least 870 people and close to 5,000 protesters are in detention after being arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

Suu Kyi is due back in court next week and has been hit with an eclectic raft of criminal charges, including accepting illegal payments of gold and violating a colonial-era secrecy law. She went on trial for sedition on Tuesday, but journalists were barred from observing proceedings. —AFP

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