No bidders in court-ordered auction of house where Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was detained for years

BANGKOK (AP) — No bidders appeared at a court-ordered auction Wednesday of the family home of Myanmar’s imprisoned former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, where she had been held under house arrest for nearly 15 years, legal officials said.

Many in Myanmar view the house as a historical landmark of Suu Kyi’s nonviolent struggle against military rule for which she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

A court in January ordered the house and 1.9-acre (0.78-hectare) property in Yangon be sold with a minimum price of 315 billion kyats ($90 million), with the proceeds to be split between Suu Kyi and her estranged older brother. Suu Kyi’s lawyers had challenged the auction order.

The auction was held in front of the closed gates of the lakeside property, which has served as an unofficial party headquarters and a political shrine for the country’s pro-democracy movement. While living there, Suu Kyi hosted visiting dignitaries including U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Suu Kyi, 78, is serving a 27-year prison sentence in a series of cases brought by the military, which seized power from her elected government in February 2021. Her supporters and independent analysts say the cases are an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power.

“I want to announce that the auction is unsuccessful as there is no bidder,” a district court official who did not identify herself announced outside the gate. A man by her side struck a small gong, and a second man said: “The auction event has ended.”

A lawyer familiar with the legal proceedings, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information, said the court will continue to handle the case but the details are not yet known.

The court-ordered auction followed a bitter decades-long legal dispute between Suu Kyi and her brother, Aung San Oo, who has sought an equal division of the property.

Aung San Oo first sued in 2000 for a partition of the property but his complaint was dismissed in January 2001 on procedural grounds. He returned to court repeatedly over the following two decades to press his claims.

The Supreme Court decided in August 2022, after the army seized power, to have the property sold by auction.

The two-story colonial-style building was given decades ago by the government to Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi, after her husband, independence hero Gen. Aung San, was assassinated in July 1947.

Khin Kyi died in December 1988, shortly after the failure of a mass uprising against military rule in which Suu Kyi was a leader and co-founder of the National League for Democracy party. She was detained in 1989 ahead of a 1990 election which her party easily won but was not allowed to take power when the army annulled the results.

She spent almost 15 of the following 21 years under house arrest at the property. For most of the time, she was alone with just a housekeeper, and at one point had to sell some of her furniture to afford food.

She remained there after her 2010 release until moving in 2012 to the capital, Naypyitaw, to serve in Parliament. She became the nation’s leader after a 2015 general election.

Early this month, Suu Kyi’s legal team filed an appeal at Yangon Region High Court requesting that the order to sell the house be amended because Suu Kyi did not seem to know about the auction and had not been allowed to meet and give instructions to her lawyers about it.

The auction was also challenged by the main organization that is coordinating opposition to the military government. Duwa Lashi La, acting president of the National Unity Government, which says it is Myanmar’s legitimate governing body, declared that the property is a cultural heritage site and prohibited its sale or destruction.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army’s 2021 takeover, which led to nationwide peaceful protests that the military government suppressed with deadly force, triggering widespread armed resistance that is widely characterized as a civil war.

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