11 July 2024

Hundreds of mourners turned out Wednesday to pay their respects to a former Myanmar general turned democracy activist and confidant of Aung San Suu Kyi, in a rare sanctioned public gathering in the junta-controlled commercial capital.

Foreign ambassadors and senior figures in Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party were among those who attended the funeral in Yangon for Tin Oo, who died on Saturday aged 97.

Suu Kyi is serving a 27-year prison sentence imposed by a junta court.

Tin Oo served as commander of the army under former strongman Ne Win, before being forced out for allegedly withholding information over a failed coup plot. 

He co-founded the NLD with Suu Kyi in the aftermath of mass protests against a former junta in 1988, and went on to become one of her closest confidants.

The ambassadors of India and Singapore joined hundreds of other people paying their respects to Tin Oo, whose body was displayed in a glass-topped coffin draped with the NLD’s peacock flag.

A cortege of cars, one decked with wreaths and bearing Tin Oo’s portrait, carried the coffin slowly through the rain-washed streets to the Yay Way cemetery, where hundreds more mourners were waiting and soldiers kept watch.

While Suu Kyi was not allowed to attend, there was a bouquet of white roses at Tin Oo’s house with a card that said “from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”.

The cemetery is also home to the remains of Sein Lwin, a former home minister accused of leading a bloody crackdown on the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations.

Tin Oo was detained by the military in that crackdown, before being released. He was arrested again along with Suu Kyi in 2003 after a pro-junta mob attacked their motorcade, killing dozens of people.

In 2017, the NLD stalwart suffered a stroke and in recent years receded from the political arena due to old age and poor health. He avoided arrest in the sweeping crackdown that accompanied the 2021 coup, likely due to his advanced age, analysts say.

The NLD has been targeted in the junta’s bloody crackdown on dissent following its coup, with one former lawmaker executed in Myanmar’s first use of capital punishment in decades.

The junta dissolved the NLD in 2023 for failing to re-register under a tough new military-drafted electoral law, removing the party from polls it has indicated it may hold in 2025.

Suu Kyi’s closed-door trial in the military-built capital Naypyidaw was condemned by rights groups as a sham to shut her out of politics.

The Nobel laureate, 78, has largely been hidden from view since the coup and has reportedly suffered health problems.

By Agence France Presse
File photo : Tin Oo, patron of the National League for Democracy (NLD), talks during celebrations marking Aung San Suu Kyi’s 69th birthday at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon on June 19, 2014.//AFP