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Burma honoured democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s father and eight other slain independence heroes at an official ceremony Thursday that underscored the political changes sweeping the country.
Vice President Sai Mauk Kham led the memorial for General Aung San and others killed on July 19, 1947, by political rivals while they were holding a meeting as part of their struggle to win independence from Britain.
The high-level presence at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in the former capital marked a departure from recent years when the Rangoon mayor was the official representative at low-key ceremonies to mark the anniversary.
The event was broadcast live on state television in another sign of change in the country formerly known as Burma, which is emerging from decades of military rule.
President Thein Sein, a former general, has overseen dramatic political changes over the past year, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of Suu Kyi to parliament.
After the ceremony, the 67-year-old opposition leader paid homage at the mausoleum with three baskets of flowers, followed by relatives of the other late independence heroes as well as diplomats and members of the public.
Later Suu Kyi addressed supporters at her party offices, calling on youth members to embrace the spirit of the martyrs.
“The martyr spirit is a noble spirit. We should respect the martyr leaders in order to increase the noble spirit of our country,” she said.
The veteran dissident, who spent much of the last two decades under house arrest and was released in late 2010, last year attended the remembrance ceremony for the first time in nine years.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner was only two years old when she lost her father, who is widely hailed as the architect of Burma’s liberation from British rule but who died a year before the colonial era ended in 1948.
Often referred to simply as Bogyoke, or General, Aung San remains a potent symbol of pride in Burma, but for years his image was rarely seen in public under a junta anxious not to draw attention to its incarceration of Suu Kyi.
Pictures of the father and daughter are now widely seen in one of the most visible signs of change under the reformist regime.