Flower protests in Myanmar for Suu Kyi’s 76th birthday

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Aung San Suu Kyi

FILE – In this Dec. 14, 2018, file photo, Myanmar’s deposed Leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to attend the Myanmar Entrepreneurship Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi entered its second day Tuesday, June 15, 2021, with the prosecution presenting arguments that she incited public disorder and flouted coronavirus restrictions, part of a package of charges the ruling junta is seen as using to discredit her and consolidate its control. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo, File)

(Reuters) — Supporters of Myanmar’s detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi wore flowers in their hair and paraded with them at street demonstrations on Saturday as she marked her 76th birthday locked up by the generals who overthrew her.

Protests have been held almost daily in Myanmar since Suu Kyi was ousted in a Feb. 1 coup that cut short a decade of democratic reforms and also sparked paralyzing strikes and renewed conflict in the Southeast Asian country.

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday called for a stop to the flow of arms to Myanmar and urged the military to respect November election results and release political detainees, including Suu Kyi.

For decades a symbol of the fight for democracy under previous juntas, she often wore flowers in her hair.

Among those wearing flowers on Saturday was activist Thet Swe Win, who had been at odds with Suu Kyi over human rights violations during her own time in office.

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“I demand freedom for all the people including Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said “Her individual rights and political rights are being violated.”

A junta spokesman did not answer calls to seek comment.

Suu Kyi is among nearly 5,000 people currently detained by the junta for opposing the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. It also says 870 people have been killed – a figure challenged by the junta.

The army overthrew Suu Kyi after her administration dismissed its allegations of fraud over her party’s landslide election victory last November. International monitors had said the vote was fair.

She now faces charges from illegally possessing walkie-talkie radios and breaking coronavirus protocols to inciting discontent, corruption and breaking the Official Secrets Act – which can carry a 14-year jail term.

Suu Kyi’s lawyers say the charges are absurd and her supporters say they are aimed at eliminating her from politics.

The next hearing is set for Monday.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but her standing in Western countries collapsed in 2017 over her defence of the army after the exodus of 700,000 minority Rohnigya Muslims in the face of an offensive.

But the episode did nothing to dent her popularity in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country.

The General Assembly resolution calling for a halt of arms supplies to Myanmar was adopted with the support of 119 countries. Belarus was the only country to oppose it, while 36 abstained, including China and Russia.

“The risk of a large-scale civil war is real,” U.N. special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told the General Assembly after the vote. “Time is of the essence. The opportunity to reverse the military takeover is narrowing.”

Writing by Matthew Tostevin Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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