Global anti-poverty campaigner and ActionAid ambassador Emma Thompson has just returned from a fact finding visit to Burma – Myanmar – where she met with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and a range of community and political leaders against a backdrop of increasing change in the country.
Travelling with ActionAid International Chief Executive Joanna Kerr and Emma’s son Tindy, they were in Burma to see ActionAid’s innovative development work with young people and learn about the current political and economic reforms.
Myanmar has had a military-led government since 1962 but recent elections and the appointment of the country’s new president has seen the release of some political prisoners, the easing of censorship and a greater sense of hope for the future.
The story in Burma is changing
Emma Thompson said: “I was in Burma to listen to the opinions of a very wide selection of people representing all sections of society. They were all giving me the same message which was that the story coming out of Burma had been very black and white and for good reason, but that over the last few months control has begun to relax, that the Burmese story is changing.
“There are difficulties and a large number of challenges, A tiny percentage of government spending has been spent on health and education for example. There are also ethnic divisions that exacerbate problems. I saw deep, wrenching poverty but felt that there is a genuine dialogue beginning to start between the people and the government. The trip left me feeling hopeful.
“Meeting Aung San Sui Kyi was a remarkable experience. She is an extraordinary woman with a wise, witty dignity. She is very perspicacious about what is happening in her country, cautious but optimistic.”