Now out in the cinemas there’s a biopic about Aung San Suu Kyi, The Lady. It has had quite a bit of hype – panned by some critics, and lorded by others. I intend to go and see it, perhaps at the weekend. I might, I might not. But the option is there. In Burma, heavy censorship has meant that being able to watch whatever you wish, on a whim, has rarely been a choice available to you.
Yet that too, is changing. According to the Guardian, Zarganar, Burma’s famous comedian and Amnesty prisoner of conscience, released in the most recent prisoner amnesty at the end of last year, has curated a bold film festival in Rangoon. The festival is showing films including ones that look at the crackdown of 2007- the Oscar-nominated Burma VJ- which depicts the violence experienced by protesting monks and journalists in what was known as the Saffron revolution. Apparently a banner was flying at the festival, which read: "Free Art, free thought, freedom."
Revelling in such freedoms so publicly was simply inconceivable as recently as this time last year. It would have been deemed a fictional plot, a work of fantasy, to propose such an event, but then a lot has changed in the last year. For a start, William Hague has added a new stamp to his passport. Hague is the first UK foreign secretary to visit Burma in 55 years (since Sir Anthony Eden, since you ask) and his current trip follows hot on the heels of that of Hillary Clinton in December.
Following a meeting with his counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwi, Hague said he had been assured that the changes there were “irreversible” and that more prisoner releases were imminent. Though the BBC urged caution that the government official they interviewed, stopped short of agreeing to refer to the prisoners as political prisoners.
Generally, though, there is cause for real hope in Burma. In an interview broadcast today, Aung San Suu Kyi said that she now firmly believes that she will experience democratic elections in Burma in her life time, joking that such a supposition was of course dependent on how long she lives. A remarkable prediction and a real turn up for the books. With that sort of epic plot development, I am sure that they’ve already started penning the sequel. Stay tuned.
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