Aung San Suu Kyi’s home finds no bidders in Myanmar

An auction held in Myanmar for the sale of the residence of imprisoned former leader Aung San Suu Kyi saw no bidders, despite reports indicating a starting price in the tens of millions of dollars.

The property, located on Yangon’s Inye Lake, was put up for auction following a lengthy legal dispute between Aung San Suu Kyi and her estranged brother Aung San Oo, under orders from the supreme court. Witnesses noted the absence of buyers, prompting the auction officer to depart.

Before the auction, a small group, mainly journalists, gathered outside the historic home on University Avenue, where officials signaled the auction’s commencement by ringing a bell. Despite efforts to solicit bids, there was only silence, leading to the closure of the auction. Security personnel discreetly photographed journalists present.

While a notice on the gate advertised the price as 315 billion kyats or around US$150 million, conflicting reports suggested a value closer to US$90 million. Aung San Oo and Myanmar’s military government representatives were unavailable for immediate comment.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, remains detained for what her supporters argue are fabricated charges. The house, where she resided for most of her time in Myanmar, holds historical significance as the venue for her speeches and meetings with prominent figures like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The property, originally belonging to her mother, has been subject to legal battles, culminating in a court order for its auction following the coup. Despite her tarnished international reputation due to political compromises, Aung San Suu Kyi maintains significant popularity in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi, now 78 years old, is serving a 27-year sentence in an undisclosed location for various alleged offenses, which her supporters claim are baseless. The colonial-style villa, where she resided for over three decades upon her return from Britain, including 15 years of house arrest during the previous junta’s rule, holds immense sentimental value. After her release, she relocated to the capital Naypyidaw to engage in parliamentary duties and eventually assumed the de facto leadership of Myanmar until her ousting in February 2021.

Throughout her time at the residence, Aung San Suu Kyi delivered impassioned speeches to crowds of supporters from behind its metal gates. The property also served as the backdrop for several significant meetings, including those with former US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The familial significance of the home traces back to its inheritance from Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi, following the assassination of her father, Gen Aung San, a revered figure in Myanmar’s struggle for independence. The legal battle over the property ensued when Aung San Oo, her estranged brother, initiated a lawsuit in 2000 seeking a share of the estate. After years of litigation, a court ruling in 2016 mandated an equal division of the property among the siblings. Despite numerous failed appeals by Aung San Oo to have the property sold and the proceeds divided, the supreme court’s special appeal was granted following the coup, leading to the auction.

Despite the controversies surrounding Aung San Suu Kyi’s tenure and her subsequent detention, her enduring popularity within Myanmar persists, underscoring the complex and deeply entrenched political dynamics within the country.

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