Aung San Suu Kyi Meets with Burmese Migrants in Thailand

Posted May 30th, 2012 at 2:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Burma's long-time democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is using her first international trip in 24 years to encourage impoverished Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.

The opposition leader Wednesday addressed a crowd of thousands who packed a narrow street in Samut Sakhon province, an area south of Bangkok where many Burmese workers have fled to escape decades of misrule in their homeland.

From the balcony of a community center, Aung San Suu Kyi told the cheering crowd that she will do her best to help the migrants, many of whom carried signs reading, “Free Burma” and “We want to go home.”

One of the migrants, Usau Tengku, said he hopes the visit will raise the plight of many in his community who work in low-paid, manual-labor jobs and are sometimes subject to human trafficking and other exploitation.

“I want Aung San Suu Kyi to know that a lot of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand are in poor conditions. We want the world to know that. We want the Thai government to know that. We want Aung San Suu Kyi to know all the problems here.”

Aung San Suu Kyi arrived Tuesday in the Thai capital, where she was greeted by throngs of journalists and supporters chanting, “Mother Suu” at Bangkok's international airport.

During her visit, she will meet with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and address the World Economic Forum on East Asia. She will also meet with tens of thousands of refugees who fled conflict in Burma's border regions.

The Nobel laureate's international trip is seen as a landmark moment in Burma's political reform process, which began last year when the country's military rulers transferred power to a nominally civilian government.

The newly elected parliament member spent 15 of the past 22 years in detention for challenging the oppressive military leadership that ruled Burma for decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010, having previously refused to leave Burma out of fear authorities would not let her return.

Her trip to Thailand comes just weeks before she is scheduled to tour several European countries.

She will give a speech to the International Labor Organization conference in Geneva on June 14. She will also visit Norway on June 16 to formally receive the Nobel Peace Prize that she won nearly 21 years ago but was unable to accept in person because of her detention. She later plans to address both houses of parliament in Britain, where she lived for years with her husband, who is now deceased.