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Myanmar's Suu Kyi to lead mass rally honouring hero father
[Natmauk, MYANMAR] Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi will pay tribute on Friday to her independence hero father in the biggest celebrations in his honour in memory, underscoring her prestigious legacy months before leading her opposition into momentous elections.
Known affectionately as "Bogyoke", or General, Aung San is adored in Myanmar and credited with unshackling the country from colonial rule and embracing its ethnic minorities in a vision of unity that unravelled catastrophically in the military-dominated decades that followed his 1947 assassination.
In a week of celebrations marking a hundred years since Aung San's birth, plays have been performed, crowds have thronged to exhibitions of old family photographs and trucks with dancing revellers crammed on their open-top roofs have roamed Yangon blasting songs praising his accomplishments.
Images of the young, serious-looking revolutionary have been deeply entwined with the political rise of his Nobel laureate daughter since her release from house arrest over four years ago.
"Being the daughter of Bogyoke Aung San is one of the reasons that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has reached the position she is in today. It's not the only reason, but it is one of them," Nyan Win, the spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, told AFP. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.
Ms Suu Kyi frequently referenced her family link while campaigning for the 2012 by-election that swept her into parliament for the first time.
Friday's grand celebrations in the remote town of Natmauk, Aung San's birthplace nestled in the arid plains of central Myanmar, come as the nation looks to a crucial election later this year seen as a test of the country's emergence from military rule.
"It's logical for politicians to try to draw some kind of support or inspiration from what he did," said Trevor Wilson, an academic at Australian National University and former ambassador to Myanmar.
Born in 1915 under British colonial rule, Aung San became leader of the nationalist fighters in what was then Burma, joining the Japanese in their 1942 invasion of the country during World War II.
Unhappy with the new occupying force, he later switched allegiance to the Allies, leading to the return of the British.
Public reverence for Aung San was kept muted under the junta that kept his daughter locked up for the best part of two decades, away from her two sons and dying husband.
But a quasi-civilian regime that came to power in 2011 has ushered in a new era of political openness, although a clause under the junta-era constitution currently bars her from the presidency.
"I love and respect his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi. I want her to be a president. Our country will develop so much if she becomes president," Yangon waiter Kyaw Ko Ko Latt told AFP.
But, he added, despite her many achievements, "she cannot match up to her father".