Emma Thompson gets to meet the Lady herself, Aung San Suu Kyi, who takes a real shine to Emma's son Tindy
We get back to the hotel and have ten minutes to clean up before arriving at the British Ambassador’s Residence. There we meet various eminences and the British Ambassador who is Irish and divine. But wonder of wonders, there is the Lady herself. She enters on silent, graceful feet and there is a prolonged dipping up and down in front of each other, like a pair of albatrosses mating. I even make whooping noises.
Quiet, funny, wise and charismatic, Aung Sang Suu Kyi is everything you’d want in a modern leader. I have her to myself for a bit and we talk politics. She is very clear:
There must be no indecent haste in this process
There is real change, she feels that strongly and it may allow her to take the stage again. She believes the president is an honourable man who wants reform and has genuine intentions. She remembers a meeting, years ago, when he was the only General who would talk to her party. One thing that had struck her very forcibly when she went to his house was that his wife had hugged her. “That’s very unusual here,” she said, eyes twinkling, “and it carries more weight than you might think.”
The rule of law is the first thing that must be re-established. Everyone in the west talks about elections but there can be no safe elections without the rule of law. The Generals must be included. Everything she says is related to compassion. What most strikes me is her level of confident integrity. The balance of her mind and body seems enviably complete.
At lunch the political discussion continues in a merry but meaningful way and we talk about books and film too. The Lady is very keen on the Arts and of course has not had access to a great deal. She was passionate about ‘The Fortunes of War’ and we discuss Olivia Manning and her strange, courageous life.
When lunch comes to an end, she asks for a few minutes alone with Tindy. I feel a bit of a ripple round the room. The eminences (who are all very nice, by the way) are amazed! A private audience for the youngest and least eminent! I am not surprised – she’s a wise woman and can see into the heart.
We all stand about while Tindy and the Lady talk. Then bid fond farewells and leave with Tindy walking on air. She wants him to help her with some of the younger ex-combatants from the civil strife.
Shihab says she doesn’t ask anyone for outside help, particularly foreigners, so Tindy’s experience was a singularly impressive one.
We are all overwhelmed by events – the conjunction of this extraordinary meeting with the Festival of the Full Moon, the release of prisoners, the shift in policy and atmosphere. It all tasted of actual history – we were hearing people saying certain things out loud for the first time in years. The taste of those forbidden words on their long-sealed lips must be very sweet.