Home of ousted Myanmar leader Suu Kyi to be put on auction

The house has been at the centre of an ownership dispute between Suu Kyi and her brother for more than two decades

A junta-controlled court ordered on Thursday that the home of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi be put on auction on March 20, with a starting bid of $90 million.

The iconic property, often referred to simply as No. 54—its address on Yangon’s University Avenue—is located on Inya Lake in one of the city’s most expensive neighbourhoods.

Ownership of the house, where Suu Kyi spent a total of 15 years under house arrest, has been in dispute since 2001, when her estranged older brother Aung San Oo, a US citizen, filed a case at a court in Yangon for an equal inheritance of the property.

In 2016, the court divided the property, giving each of the siblings half—a decision that Aung San Oo repeatedly appealed.

While an initial appeal in 2018 was unsuccessful, a petition submitted to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court the following year overturned that decision, reopening the case for further litigation. On August 22, 2022, the court ordered that the house be put on auction.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi, 78, is serving a total of 33 years in prison on a host of charges laid against her in the wake of the February 2021 coup that ousted her democratically elected government. 

Since her arrest on the day of the military takeover, the regime has strictly limited her contact with anyone outside of the detention centre in Naypyitaw where she is being held. 

In July of last year, however, Thailand’s then foreign minister, Don Pramundwinai, revealed that he had met with her and that she appeared to be in good health.

A source with knowledge of her current situation said that her lawyers are under a gag order, preventing them from speaking to the media. They also haven’t been permitted to meet her since the end of 2022, the source said.

“There is nothing she can do about it,” the source said, referring to the decision to set a date for the auction of her home. “All she can do is wait and watch it happen.”

The two-storey colonial-style house, built on a two-acre plot of land, was gifted to Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi, after her husband, independence leader Aung San, was assassinated in 1947.

Suu Kyi, who spent much of her early life abroad and later settled in England with her British husband, academic Michael Aris, returned to Myanmar in 1988 to care for her ailing mother, who died later that year.

At the time, the country was in the throes of a massive popular uprising calling for an end to decades of military rule, and Suu Kyi soon found herself leading the nascent pro-democracy movement.

The house at 54 University Avenue became the early headquarters of her newly formed National League for Democracy party, and was also where she spent most of the next two decades under house arrest.

During a decade-long period of relative openness that followed Suu Kyi’s release in 2010, the house hosted some of the world’s top leaders, including US President Barack Obama and United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

According to Nay Phone Latt, the spokesperson for Myanmar’s publicly mandated National Unity Government, an application has been submitted to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, to list the house as a world heritage site.

“We have made it clear that nobody can sell or touch it. No sale or auction carried out under this coup regime can be regarded as legitimate,” he told Myanmar Now.

“Those involved in buying the house will later be held liable for criminal charges under the law,” he added.

Related Articles

Back to top button