Civil society groups have written to President U Thein Sein, the Speaker of Parliament, Thura U Shwe Mann and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, asking them to attend the Martyrs’ Day ceremony in Yangon on July 19.

A copy of the letter, sent on July 15 and signed, ‘Those who bow before the martyrs’, also requests the reintroduction of a commemorative one-minute siren at 10.37am on July 19, the time when General Aung San and eight others were gunned down during a meeting in the Secretariat building in Yangon in 1947.

“We request that the President, the Speaker and the Commander-in-Chief attend the ceremony in person to salute our fallen leaders,” said the letter, copies of which were distributed at a news conference held by the Myanmar Journalist Network on July 15.

“The martyrs are the architects of our independence and today’s rulers should bow before them,” said Ko Di Nyein Lin of the Organising Committee for Establishing a Federation of Student Unions, one of the civil society groups involved in the campaign.

After a national uprising was crushed in 1988, the ruling military junta banned the commemorative siren and declared the Martyrs’ Mausoleum, where the ceremony is held, off-limits to the public.

Vice President Sai Mauk Kham was the highest-ranking member of the government at last year’s official ceremony at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum, on a hillside near the Shwedagon Pagoda.

In 2011, the government lifted the ban on members of the public visiting the Martyrs’ Mausoleum on Martyrs’ Day. A massive crowd paid homage to the nation’s fallen heroes last year.