Myanmar honours slain democracy activists

Citizens sound sirens and honk car horns to commemorate death of independence hero Aung San and eight others in 1947.

Myanmar''s annual Martyr''s Day commemoration in Yangon
Aung San is considered the architect of Myanmar's independence, which it achieved months after his death [AFP]

Myanmar has marked its annual Martyr’s Day in Yangon to remember pro-democracy activists killed in 1947, including the father of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Horns honked and sirens wailed on Friday and adding a modern twist, many people played siren-like ring tones downloaded to their mobile phones to mark the moment at 10:37am when General Aung San and eight others were assassinated at a Cabinet meeting on July 19, 1947.

State-owned radio stations used to broadcast sirens in Aung San’s honour but the custom was stopped for many years as part of the former military rulers’ efforts to stem the popularity of Suu Kyi, who was kept under house arrest for 15 years.

The junta ceded power in 2011 to a nominally civilian government that has embarked on wide-ranging political and economic reforms.

Last year, for the first time in decades state television broadcast a memorial to Aung San.

Sirens rejected

This year, opposition legislators raised the issue in parliament of resuming the sirens’ wail nationwide but the government rejected the idea saying it could cause traffic accidents.

In defiance, pro-democracy groups launched a campaign asking citizens in 30 towns and cities to sound their own sirens and honk car horns.

With flags flying at half-staff, Vice President Sai Mauk Hkam joined Suu Kyi, now a member of parliament, in placing three baskets of flowers at her father’s tomb, near the towering Shwedagon Pagoda.

Aung San was 32 years old when he was gunned down along with six Cabinet ministers and two other officials.

He is considered the architect of Myanmar’s independence from Britain, which it achieved several months after
his death.

Civilians also joined in the ceremony saying they wanted their children to remember what the activists stood for.

“I want young people to learn about Martyr’s Day because they don’t know anything about it, including my son. They don’t even know why the flag needs to be lowered to half-mast,” said 41-year old Khin Marlar Myint.

Myanmar was under strict military rule for nearly five decades until the November 2010 elections saw the previously isolated country opening up with democratic reforms.

Source: News Agencies