Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest gate to go up for auction

While under house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi often mounted a table behind the front gate of her home and spoke to crowds of supporters through a loudspeaker.

A file picture taken on November 13, 2010, shows democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi being greeted by thousands of supporters over the fence of her home as she is set free in Yangon, Myanmar. Nyein Chan Naing/EPA
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YANGON, Myanmar // The iron gate that stood in front of the home of Aung San Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest in Myanmar is going on the auction block.

The gate separated the democracy icon from throngs of cheering supporters as she made speeches challenging the country’s then-military rulers.

Soe Nyunt, the gate’s current owner, said on Monday that the starting bid would be US$200,000 (Dh734.598).

He said the proceeds would go toward helping Ms Suu Kyi build a new National League for Democracy party headquarters.

The 69-year old Nobel laureate – and daughter of Myanmar’s famous independence leader, General Aung San – became an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression during her 15 years of on-again-off-again house arrest.

She permanently moved from London to the lakeside house of her mother almost 27 years ago. While imprisoned in that home, Ms Suu Kyi often mounted a table behind its front gate and held onto the pointed iron spikes as she spoke to crowds through a loudspeaker about everything from corruption to the abysmal state of education.

In 1996, the then-military regime had had enough, and blocked public access to the house. But in 2007, more than 500 chanting Buddhist monks brazenly walked past the barricades, and Ms Suu Kyi met them in front of the gate, bowing her head in a show of respect and then waving.

When finally released in 2010, soon after elections that were widely seen as neither free nor fair, thousands of supporters greeted Ms Suu Kyi with garlands and bouquets of flowers.

A bumpy transition from dictatorship to democracy in Myanmar has since followed. Ms Suu Kyi is now leader of the opposition in the country’s young, military-dominated parliament, but she has said that many of the reforms implemented since 2011 have either stalled or been rolled back.

Soe Nyunt said he found the gate – and the separate house number plaque, which is also being put up for auction – while landscaping the house’s garden. He said it was lying under a mango tree waiting to be picked up by a junk collector.

Recognising its significance, Soe Nyunt asked if he could have it, handing over a few hundred dollars in exchange.

“This gate tells the history of the country’s democratic struggle,” he said previously, adding that it should be placed in a museum for future generations.

But Soe Nyunt has since decided to auction the items – to take place in the next few weeks – after seeing that the cash-strapped NLD badly needed a new party headquarters.

He said he also hoped some of the money would go toward upcoming centennial celebrations to honour Ms Suu Kyi’s father.

This is not the first time that items associated with the opposition leader have been auctioned. Ms Suu Kyi’s handmade sweaters were auctioned at a party fund-raiser in 2012, fetching $123,000. The proceeds went to her education and health projects.

* Associated Press