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Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, launched the Suu Foundation on Sunday, together with Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh.
Suu Foundation is a non-profit initiative of Suu Kyi, aimed at improving health care and education in Burma. Among its board members are Yeoh, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former first lady Laura Bush.
“As a member of the board of the Suu Foundation, I am incredibly proud and honoured to join with Daw Suu as she begins the next chapter of her life and continues to improve the lives of her fellow citizens. The focus of the Suu Foundation will be the simplest but most fundamental things — health care and education,” Yeoh said.
Yeoh was deported from Burma in 2011 after she played role of Suu Kyi in “The Lady,” a film by Luc Besson that chronicles the pro-democracy leader’s experience under house arrest, separated from her husband and sons who were prohibited from visiting the country.
The foundation aims to revive the University of Rangoon, which was once one of the top schools in Southeast Asia.
The initiative will also seek out investment to rebuild Rangoon General Hospital, which is in need of funding, training and adequate equipment.
Mobile libraries are being set up throughout the country.
Suu Kyi launched her foundation a day ahead of the 2014 East-West International Media Conference to be held in Rangoon, where hundreds of local and international delegates will gather for three days to discuss the challenges of a free press.
“Many people have talked about the amazing changes that have taken place in this country. And I would like to say quite frankly that these changes have been not all that great and not all that amazing. But, but, there is one thing that none of us can deny — there is greater freedom of the press,” Suu Kyi said, addressing journalists.
Burma’s presidential spokesperson and Deputy Minister of Information, Ye Htut, will speak on the country’s media reforms at the conference, where more than 300 journalists from 25 countries will take part.
The quasi-civilian government that took over from the military junta in 2011 has implemented sweeping economic and political reforms, giving more freedom to the media including those who lived in exile.
Recently, however, the government has tightened access for international media. It is widely believed that this was in response to critical coverage of an alleged massacre of Rohingya Muslims in mid-January, which the government denies.