No bids as house of Suu Kyi auctioned

Published March 21, 2024
OFFICIALS read a statement outside the house of Aung San Suu Kyi, on Wednesday.—AFP
OFFICIALS read a statement outside the house of Aung San Suu Kyi, on Wednesday.—AFP

YANGON: The lakeside mansion where Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest went under auction on Wednesday with a minimum price of $150 million — but attracted no bids, officials said.

The two-storey house and 1.9 acres of land were put up for sale following a decades-long dispute over the property between the Nobel laureate — who has been detained since the 2021 military coup — and her brother.

Ahead of the auction, a small crowd — mostly of journalists — gathered outside the colonial-era house on leafy University Avenue, a few doors down from the US embassy.

Officials emerged from the locked gates and announced the opening of the auction by striking a small bell three times. Above the gate, a portrait of Suu Kyi’s father, the independence hero Aung San, watched over the proceedings, while a notice advertised the price as 315 billion kyats, or $150 million based on the official exchange rate.

The auctioneer — wearing a sarong-like longyi — held his hand up for bids, but there was only silence. “There is no one to bid,” he announced, and the bell struck again to close the auction. Plainclothes security officers took photos of journalists covering the event.

For around 15 years, Suu Kyi was confined within the house’s crumbling walls by the military after she shot to fame during huge demonstrations against the then-junta in 1988.

Cut off from her husband and children in England, Suu Kyi spent time playing the piano, reading detective novels and meditating as her status as a democracy leader grew. Hundreds gathered regularly on the pavement outside the property to hear her talk about democracy and fighting military rule through non-violence.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2024

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