Myanmar court orders auction of home where Suu Kyi spent 15 years' house arrest

The decision comes after a decades-long legal dispute between Suu Kyi and her brother Aung San Oo

By AP

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Aung San Suu Kyi and Hillary Rodham Clinton walk through the garden after meetings at Suu Kyi's residence in Yangon. — AP file
Aung San Suu Kyi and Hillary Rodham Clinton walk through the garden after meetings at Suu Kyi's residence in Yangon. — AP file

Published: Thu 25 Jan 2024, 6:57 PM

A court in military-controlled Myanmar on Thursday ordered the family home of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, where she spent 15 years under house arrest, put on auction in March following a bitter decades-long legal dispute between her and her brother.

The decision by a district court in Yangon, the country’s largest city, came nearly one and half years after the Supreme Court upheld a special appeal lodged by Suu Kyi’s estranged older brother, Aung San Oo, granting him half ownership of the family property that the siblings inherited in Yangon.

A legal official familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release information, said the district court decided to auction the property on March 20 with a floor price of 315 billion Myanmar kyats (about $90 million).

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He said the auction will be held in front of the historic property.

The 1.923-acre (0.78-hectare) family property on Inye Lake with a two-story colonial-style building was given by the government to Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi, after her husband, independence hero Gen. Aung San, was assassinated in July 1947. Khin Kyi died in December 1988, shortly after the failure of a mass uprising against military rule in which Suu Kyi took a leadership role as a co-founder of the National League for Democracy party.

Suu Kyi was detained in 1989 ahead of a 1990 election. Her party easily won the polls but was not allowed to take power when the army annulled the results. She ended up spending almost 15 years under house arrest at the property at 54 University Avenue and stayed there after her 2010 release.

For most of the time she was detained in Yangon, Suu Kyi was alone with just a housekeeper, and at one point had to sell some of her furniture to afford food.

As she was gradually allowed her freedom, the property became a sort of political shrine and unofficial party headquarters. She was able to deliver speeches from her front gate to crowds of supporters gathered in the street outside, and in later years hosted visiting dignitaries including then-US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In 2012 she moved to the capital, Naypyitaw, where she stayed part time after being elected to Parliament, and spent even more time after becoming the de facto head of government after the 2015 general election. She was uprooted again in February 2021 when the army ousted her elected government and arrested her. After being tried on what are widely regarded as flimsy, politically motivated charges, she is serving a combined 27-year sentence in Naypyitaw’s main prison.

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Her brother, Aung San Oo, first filed suit in 2000 for an equal share of the Yangon property, but his case was dismissed in January 2001 on procedural grounds. He returned to court again and again over the following two decades to press his claim.

In 2016, the Western Yangon District Court issued a ruling dividing the plot equally between the siblings. Aung San Oo considered the decision unfair and appealed unsuccessfully multiple times for the court to have the property sold by auction and the proceeds split between him and Suu Kyi.

The Supreme Court agreed to allow his special appeal and decided in August 2022 -- after the army’s seizure of power from Suu Kyi’s elected government — to have the property sold by auction.

A month after that, Duwa Lashi La, the acting president of the National Unity Government, the country’s popular opposition organisation which lays claim to being its legitimate government, designated the property as a cultural heritage site and prohibited its sale or destruction, under threat of eventual legal punishment.


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