By VICTORIA MILKO | FRONTIER
YANGON — Government and military leaders in Yangon on Tuesday joined a solemn ceremony for Martyrs’ Day, the annual commemoration of the death of General Aung San and members of the interim government he led during the final year of the colonial era.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the independence hero, was among those present to pay her respects during an early morning ceremony held at the Martyr’s Mausoleum, where the remains of the nine who were shot down on the fateful morning of July 19, 1947 are interred.
Also present was Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, who yesterday became the first military commander-in-chief to attend an official Martyrs’ Day function in years.
Amid heavy security, several participants in the ceremony openly wept, while military officers at the sidelines maintained a stoic posture as a procession of figures brought floral wreaths to the base of the mausoleum.
Later in the morning, thousands of people descended on the Secretariat building, the colonial seat of government in Yangon and site of Aung San’s death, which was opened to the public for only the second year running.
Amid fierce monsoonal rain, the crowd stood silent at 10:37am to mark the moment of the assassination, while police and traffic marshals bowed their heads and faced the historic building.
On the street, traffic came to a standstill and drivers laid on their horns in unison for a full minute — a common means of marking the anniversary during the socialist era that was prohibited by the former military regime, and which has made a gradual return in recent years.
“This is a time for us to remember, to mourn and to celebrate,” said 52-year-old U Aung Cho. “While I am sad the General was killed, I am happy that the new government allows us to remember this day.”