Aung San Suu Kyi house action gets no bids at auction

Aung San Suu Kyi house action gets no bids at auction
Aung San Suu Kyi house action gets no bids at auction

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - YANGON — An auction of the villa of Myanmar's detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi has failed after no bids were made for it.

A court had ordered its sale in January following a long-running ownership dispute with her brother.

Lawyers for Ms Suu Kyi, who has been detained since her government was overthrown by a military coup in 2021, have challenged holding the auction without her consent.

She has been unable to meet her lawyers since December 2022.

The reserve price for the property was set at 315 billion kyats ($90m; £70m).

Court officials stood outside the front gate of the house at 10:00 local time (03:30 GMT) and asked three times if there were any bids, before closing the auction. Only journalists, officials and undercover police were present.

Her lakeside home at 54 University Avenue, Yangon, is almost as famous as Aung San Suu Kyi herself.

She grew up in it, and in 1988 began her long campaign for democracy from it, using it as the first headquarters of her party, the National League for Democracy. And during her three terms of house arrest, totalling 15 years until 2010, she was confined there.

The two-storey, colonial-era house was given to Ms Suu Kyi's mother in 1953, following the death of one of her brothers in a drowning accident in the swimming pool of their old home.

Her father, General Aung San, the founder of the main independence movement in Burma, was assassinated in 1947. Ms Suu Kyi lived overseas, in the US and UK, until 1988, when she returned to the house to look after her ailing mother.

During her long periods of house arrest, journalists would drive past the increasingly dilapidated building, surreptitiously filming through the windows of their cars to avoid the ever-present intelligence officers. But in the brief periods when she was freed, large crowds would gather outside the front gate to hear her give speeches, and journalists could meet and interview her in the garden.

She was there when her husband, the British academic Michael Aris, died in the UK from cancer in 1999. She was unable to leave to see him, knowing the military would not allow her to return to Myanmar if she did.

In 2009, an American man swam across the lake to see her, resulting in a three-year jail sentence being imposed on her for allowing an unauthorized visit.

When she was finally freed in 2010, Ms Suu Kyi began meeting her political colleagues and world leaders there, starting with then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011, and then President Barrack Obama in November 2012.

After being elected as an MP in 2012, she started spending more time at her house in the capital Naypyidaw so she could attend parliament, but 54 University Avenue remained a popular backdrop for tourist photographs.

Her surviving brother, Aung San Oo, who is now a US citizen based in California, first challenged her ownership of the house in 2000. He filed multiple legal claims to it over the years, although as a foreign national he is not legally allowed to own or sell it.

In 2016, a court in Yangon ruled that he was entitled to half the land, but that the house remained the property of Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2018, the Supreme Court did not rule on his appeal to have the property sold, and the proceeds divided between them.

Ms Suu Kyi's supporters believe Aung San Oo's claims on the house have long been supported by the military, both to undermine her and to take from her a building which has come to symbolize her long struggle against military rule.

The 2021 coup put the judiciary under the authority of the junta, which many believe is why the court issued the verdict in January this year that the property must be auctioned.

The National Unity Government, which represents the administration led by Ms Suu Kyi which was ousted by the coup, has declared that 54 University Avenue is a historic building, and that its forced sale will be viewed as illegal by a future elected government.

Her lawyers have also filed a motion to stop the auction because they have been unable to meet her for more than a year, and she has not been able to give her own views on the sale. — BBC

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