Image: Aung San Suu Kyi and son
Nyein Chan Naing  /  EPA
Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi receives a birthday kiss from her son Kim Aris upon his arrival at the airport in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sunday.
updated 6/19/2011 12:54:26 AM ET 2011-06-19T04:54:26

For the first time in nearly a decade, Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi celebrated her birthday in freedom on Sunday.

The Nobel Peace laureate turned 66, and received one gift at Yangon's international airport: the arrival of her youngest son, Kim Aris, who lives in Britain and kissed his mother on arrival.

Suu Kyi has celebrated 15 birthdays in detention or house arrest over the past 22 years, and this was the first in nine years that she was able to mark freely with friends, family and supporters.

Ruled by the military since 1962, Myanmar held its first elections in 20 years in November. Suu Kyi was released from seven years of house arrest just days after the poll, which her party boycotted. The junta handed power to a civilian government in March, but critics say it's merely a front for continued army rule.

Last year, Suu Kyi marked her birthday alone, locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound while world leaders called for her release and supporters held somber ceremonies elsewhere in Yangon in her honor.

This time around, she was expected to offer a meal to Buddhist monks, attend a celebration at her political party headquarters and enjoy a private garden party with friends and relatives.

Born June 19, 1945, in Rangoon, as Yangon was then known, Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace prize for her determined nonviolent struggle for democracy.

She was last arrested in May 2003 after her motorcade was attacked in northwestern Myanmar by a pro-junta mob while she was on a political tour. This month, she plans her first trip across the countryside since that ill-fated tour.

Since her release last year, Suu Kyi has continued to be outspoken, but little has changed in the repressive nation, which still holds more than 2,000 political prisoners and deploys security agents to monitor Suu Kyi closely.

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