YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi marked her 65th birthday Saturday locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound as calls for her freedom erupted around the world.
President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Suu Kyi’s release in statements echoed at rallies and prayer vigils. Supporters threw a birthday party at the suburban Yangon home of a fellow opposition member. It was attended by more than 300 people but not the guest of honor.
Holding candles and yellow roses, they lit a birthday cake with 65 candles and released 65 doves into the sky while chanting, “Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” Plainclothes security watched and videotaped the event.
Suu Kyi has now spent 15 birthdays in detention over the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. She is the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate.
“To the international community I want to reiterate her words: ‘Please use your liberty to promote ours,’” said Win Tin, who co-founded the National League for Democracy party with Suu Kyi and himself spent nearly 20 years jailed as a political prisoner.
Global condemnation over her imprisonment has failed to change the junta’s harsh attacks on all dissent or soften their stance on Suu Kyi, whose steely grace, charisma and popularity have remained intact despite her long confinement.
Ahead of historic elections planned for later this year, Suu Kyi remains the biggest threat to the ruling junta. Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been dominated by military rule since 1962.
The vote will be the first in two decades. Suu Kyi’s party overwhelmingly won the last election in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.