YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The iron gate that stood in front of the home of Myanmar's formerly imprisoned democracy icon, separating her from throngs of cheering supporters as she made speeches challenging the country's then-military rulers, is going on the auction block.
Soe Nyunt, the current owner, said Monday the starting bid would be $200,000.
He said the proceeds would go toward helping Aung San Suu Kyi build a new National League for Democracy party headquarters.
The 69-year old Nobel laureate — and daughter of Myanmar's country's famous independence leader, Gen. Aung San — became an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression during her 15 years of on-again-off again house arrest.
She permanently moved from London to the lakeside house of her mother almost 27 years ago, where while under incarceration she often mounted a table behind its front gate and held on the pointed iron spikes as she spoke to crowds through a loudspeaker about everything from corruption to the abysmal state of education.
In 1996, the then-military regime had enough, blocking public access to the house. But in 2007, more than 500 chanting Buddhist monks brazenly walked past the barricades, Suu Kyi met them in front of the gate, bowing her head in a show of respect and then waving.
When finally released in 2010, soon after elections that were widely seen as neither free nor fair, thousands of supporters greeted her with garlands and bouquets of flowers.
A bumpy transition from dictatorship to democracy followed. Suu Kyi is now leader of the opposition in the country's young, military-dominated parliament, but she has said many of the reforms implemented since 2011 have either stalled or rolled back.
Soe Nyunt said he saw the gate - and the house number, 54, painted on a separate lacquered plate - while landscaping the garden. He said it was lying under a mango tree waiting to be picked up by a junk collector.
Recognizing its significance, he asked if he could have it, giving a few hundred dollars in exchange.
"This gate tells the history of the country's democratic struggle," Soe Nyunt told The Associated Press, adding that it should be placed in a museum for future generations.
But he decided on the auction, to be held within the next few weeks, after seeing that the cash-strapped NLD badly needed a new party headquarters.
He said he hoped some of the money would go toward upcoming centennial celebrations to honor Suu Kyi's father.
This is not the first time items associated with Suu Kyi have been auctioned. Suu Kyi's hand-made sweaters were auctioned at a party fundraiser in 2012, fetching $123,000. The proceeds went to her education and health projects.