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No bids as house of Myanmar’s Suu Kyi auctioned

An auction of the family house of Myanmar's detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi attracted no bids
An auction of the family house of Myanmar's detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi attracted no bids - Copyright AFP STR
An auction of the family house of Myanmar's detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi attracted no bids - Copyright AFP STR

The lakeside mansion where Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest went under auction on Wednesday with a minimum price of $150 million — but attracted no bids, officials said.

The two-storey house and 1.9 acres of land was put up for sale following a decades-long dispute over the property between the Nobel laureate — who has been detained since the 2021 military coup — and her brother.

Ahead of the auction, a small crowd — mostly of journalists — gathered outside the colonial-era house on leafy University Avenue, a few doors down from the US embassy.

Officials emerged from the locked gates and announced the opening of the auction by striking a small bell three times. 

Above the gate, a portrait of Suu Kyi’s father, the independence hero Aung San, watched over the proceedings, while a notice advertised the price as 315 billion kyats, or $150 million based on the official exchange rate.

The auctioneer — wearing a sarong-like longyi — held his hand up for bids, but there was only silence. 

“There is no one to bid,” he announced, striking the bell again to close the auction.  

Plainclothes security officers took photos of journalists covering the event. 

For around 15 years, Suu Kyi was confined within the house’s crumbling walls by the military after she shot to fame during huge demonstrations against the then-junta in 1988. 

Cut off from her husband and children in England, Suu Kyi spent time playing the piano, reading detective novels and meditating as her status as a democracy leader grew.

Hundreds gathered regularly on the pavement outside the property to hear her talk about democracy and fighting military rule through non-violence.

After her release in 2010, she continued to live at the villa, where she received a string of foreign leaders, journalists and diplomats. 

In 2012, then-US president Barack Obama visited her at the villa and lionised her as an “icon of democracy”.

– Jailed –

Suu Kyi left Yangon in 2012 and moved to the military-built capital Naypyidaw to govern as part of an uneasy power-sharing arrangement with the military. 

She was detained there in the early hours of February 1, 2021 when the military seized power again, ending a 10-year experiment with democracy and plunging the Southeast Asian nation into bloody turmoil.

A junta-controlled court has since jailed her on a litany of charges that critics have slammed as farcical and designed to remove her from politics. 

The Nobel Peace Laureate, 78, has been largely hidden from view since the coup, appearing only in grainy state media photos taken during court proceedings.

She remains hugely popular in Myanmar, even after her international image was tainted by her power-sharing deal with the generals, who she had defended against charges of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority. 

Many of those now fighting for democracy have abandoned her principle of non-violence and taken up arms to try and permanently root out the military dominance of Myanmar’s politics and economy.

Last month, Suu Kyi’s son told AFP she was in “strong spirits” after he received a letter from her — their first communication since she was detained since the coup three years ago.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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