Actress Michelle Yeoh, who plays Aung San Suu Kyi in a new biopic of the Myanmar activist, said Wednesday that the release of jailed dissident and comedian Zarganar was “joyful news”.
Zarganar, one of Myanmar’s most celebrated satirists who had been incarcerated since 2008 for his political activities, was among dozens of political prisoners given their freedom in military-dominated Myanmar.
“We hope and we pray that there will be more people like him released. It shows the new government of Burma is starting out on the right path,” Yeoh told a news conference at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.
“The release of Zarganar is a joyful news and we hope that there will be more people like him because there are too many prisoners, political prisoners still in there,” she said.
Wednesday’s prisoner releases were the latest sign of change in the authoritarian state formerly known as Burma after decades of repression, following the nominal end to military rule in elections last year.
Yeoh is in Busan to promote “The Lady”, Suu Kyi’s life story, directed by Luc Besson. The Frenchman had only moments earlier told reporters that “until the day Zarganar is released, I think there will be no democracy in Burma”.
When informed that Zarganar had been released, Besson at first reacted in disbelief. Once the report was confirmed, the director said it was the “best news” he had heard all day.
Yeoh, best known for her roles in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”, said she had taken on the role of Suu Kyi in a bid to pressure the Myanmar government to respect human rights.
“We are very proud of this movie and we believe it is a very important movie because of who she is and because of her fight for democracy with words,” said the Malaysian-born actress.
The actress had met Suu Kyi last December when the democracy heroine was released from two decades of on-off house arrest, and Yeoh she had been inspired by her “strength”.
“The Lady” has been screening to packed theatres in Busan, and Besson said he hoped it would roll out on general release from November.
He said Suu Kyi had yet to see the finished production.
“She said I will see it when I am courageous enough,” said Besson, who also divulged the activist had not read the script nor been involved in the production in any way.