Natmauk (Myanmar), Feb 13: Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi addressed a crowd of thousands on Friday in the biggest celebrations honouring her independence hero father in memory, underscoring her legacy, months before leading the opposition to momentous elections.
In scenes reminiscent of her triumphant election campaign three years ago, Suu Kyi addressed a huge crowd in her father's central Myanmar birthplace, with many supporters waving her party flag or portraits of the general as an earnest young revolutionary in a military cap.
"If we want to inherit from my father, we have to build a real democratic nation," said an emotional Suu Kyi, adding that his "sincerity" had ensured his legacy endured.
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.
Suu Kyi was just two at the time of his death. Thursday's rally marking the centenary of Aung San's birth in Natmauk - a remote town nestled in the dusty plains of central Myanmar - is the centrepiece of countrywide celebrations that are far more extensive than previous years.
People had camped out overnight to see "the Lady", as she is known, many sleeping on the ground in the local pagoda, on roadsides or in their cars in the farming town.
The celebrations come as Myanmar awaits a breakthrough general election later this year seen as a crucial test of the country's emergence from military rule.
Images of Aung San have been deeply entwined with the political rise of his Nobel laureate daughter since her release from house arrest over four years ago.
Suu Kyi frequently referenced her family link while campaigning for the 2012 by-election that swept her into parliament for the first time.
"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. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.
Nyan Win said that with a poll date yet to be announced, campaigning has not officially begun and the party is not yet in election mode.
"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.
However, he said no single party had "exclusive rights" to Aung San, who is also seen as the father of the country's powerful army.