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Sirens sounds as Myanmar revives Aung San tribute

YANGON, Myanmar – Horns honked and sirens wailed Friday as Myanmar revived a tribute that was silenced for decades to the country’s slain independence hero, the father of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Adding a modern twist, many people played siren-like ring tones downloaded to their mobile phones to mark the moment at 10:37 a.m. when Gen. Aung San was assassinated by gunmen at a Cabinet meeting on July 19, 1947.

State-owned radio stations used to broadcast sirens in Aung San’s honor but the custom was stopped for many years as part of the former military rulers’ efforts to stem the popularity of Suu Kyi, who was kept under house arrest for 15 years.

The junta ceded power in 2011 to a nominally civilian government that has embarked on wide-ranging political and economic reforms.

Last year, for the first time in decades state television broadcast a memorial to Aung San.

This year, opposition lawmakers raised the issue in parliament of resuming the sirens’ wail nationwide but the government rejected the idea saying it could cause traffic accidents. In defiance, pro-democracy groups launched a campaign asking citizens in 30 towns and cities to sound their own sirens and honk car horns.

With flags flying at half-staff, Vice President Sai Mauk Hkam joined Suu Kyi, now the opposition leader of Parliament, in placing three baskets of flowers at her father’s tomb, near the towering Shwedagon Pagoda.

Aung San was 32 years old when he was gunned down along with six Cabinet ministers and two other officials. He is considered the architect of Myanmar’s independence from Britain, which it achieved several months after his death.

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