Shunned by the international community for her handling of the Rohingya crisis, Burma’s beleaguered leader Aung San Suu Kyi now faces strife on her own doorstep after her estranged brother launched a fresh bid to sell their family home. 

Aung San Oo, who spends much of his time in the United States, on Wednesday launched an appeal in Burma’s Supreme Court to auction off the white colonial era villa where his former democracy activist sister was held for 15 years under house arrest. 

“The money earned from putting the house and compound up for auction would be divided equally between us,” Mr Oo told journalists outside the court, reported Frontier Myanmar. “This is the clearest way. I’m not making an unfair demand.”

The once-grand residence at 54 University Avenue, facing Yangon’s Inya Lake, became a symbol of Aung San Suu Kyi’s lengthy struggle for democracy against the ruling military junta who kept her confined behind its walls for much of the period between 1989 and 2010. 

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She gave impassioned speeches to crowds of supporters over its metal gates and the property has served as a hub for the National League for Democracy, the former dissident party that she still heads as the country’s civilian leader. 

Aung San Suu Kyi used to address crowds over the iron fence of her homeCredit:
Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket

Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, hugged Ms Suu Kyi – at the time a global human rights heroine – warmly on the steps of the villa and walked in its gardens in 2011. Her house call was followed by a historic visit a few months later by President Barack Obama. 

Since she became an elected politician in 2012, moving to the new capital Naypyitaw, the seat of Parliament, Ms Suu Kyi has only returned to her childhood home during recess. 

However, behind the villa’s iconic status lies a bitter sibling dispute that has simmered since 2001, when Mr Oo first sued for a share of the property which his lawyer has valued at $90 million. 

A Yangon court ruled in 2016 that Ms Suu Kyi owned the main building while another building and some of the surrounding land belonged to her brother. 

The Burmese leader has so far not commented on the court case, but supporters from within her political party have criticised the potential sale. 

Nyi Nyi, a member of Yangon’s regional parliament, vowed to raise funds for the legal battle. “This will become a historic place of a leader who fought for democracy and so, as a citizen, although I am not rich, I cannot lose the compound,” he said.