YANGON • Supporters of Myanmar's detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi wore flowers in their hair and paraded with them at street demonstrations yesterday as she marked her 76th birthday locked up by the generals who ousted her.
Protests have been held almost daily in Myanmar since Ms Suu Kyi was ousted in a Feb 1 coup that cut short a decade of democratic reforms and also sparked paralysing strikes and renewed conflict in the South-east Asian country.
Ms Suu Kyi, for decades a symbol of the fight for democracy under previous juntas, often wears flowers in her hair.
Among those wearing flowers yesterday was activist Thet Swe Win, who had been at odds with Ms Suu Kyi over human rights violations during her own time in office.
"I demand freedom for all the people including Aung San Suu Kyi," he said. "Her individual rights and political rights are being violated."
Myanmar's Miss Universe beauty queen Thuzar Wint Lwin wore red flowers in her hair and wrote: "May our leader be healthy."
In Yangon's north, protesters put up posters expressing solidarity. "Happy Birthday Mother Suu. We are right behind you," the signs read. Some marched with black umbrellas and banners that read "freedom from fear" alongside pictures of Ms Suu Kyi.
In the border region of Karen state, some rebel soldiers were photographed holding their guns as well as yellow, white and purple posies, and with flowers tucked behind their ears. Demonstrators in the south-eastern city of Dawei made a giant pink birthday cake for their street protest. A junta spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.
Ms Suu Kyi is among nearly 5,000 people detained by the junta for opposing the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. It also says about 870 people have been killed - a figure challenged by the junta.
The army overthrew Ms Suu Kyi after her administration dismissed its allegations of fraud over her party's landslide election victory last November. International monitors had said the vote was fair.
She faces charges ranging from illegal possession of walkie-talkies and breaking coronavirus protocols to inciting discontent, corruption and breaking the Official Secrets Act - which can carry a 14-year jail term. Her lawyers say the charges are absurd and her supporters say they are aimed at eliminating her from politics. The next hearing is set for tomorrow.
Ms Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but her standing in Western countries collapsed in 2017 over her defence of the army after the exodus of 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims in the face of a military offensive. But she remains popular at home.
"I am involved in this campaign because she is unfairly detained by the military and her civilian rights... and freedom are denied," a 35-year-old activist told AFP, adding that it was not personal support. "After she is free from her detention, she will have to take full responsibility over her silence concerning the suffering of Rohingya and other ethnic groups."
Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis also sent birthday wishes to Ms Suu Kyi, saying: "I wish you all the best for your health and strength."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE