Aung San Suu Kyi met with a few hundred migrant workers from Myanmar during a visit to Thailand on Thursday, while thousands of others waited in the rain outside the factory where she spoke hoping she would address the crowd.
Myanmar’s de facto national leader, who also holds the positions of state counselor, foreign minister, and minister of the President’s Office, met for about 45 minutes with migrant laborers in the Mahachai district of central Thailand’s Samut Sakhon province outside Bangkok.
She is visiting Thailand in her capacities as foreign minister and state counselor.
Aung San Suu Kyi made the stop in Mahachai as part of an official three-day visit to the neighboring country, where she will meet with Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Friday and sign an agreement that will make it easier for Myanmar migrants to work legally in Thailand.
“Burmese people have to live in Thailand as guests, and as such, the hosts will respect the guests,” she told the fewer than 500 migrant workers inside the building. “The Myanmar embassy must help Burmese workers in Thailand.”
Aung San Suu Kyi also told the migrant laborers that she was trying to secure proper identification documents for them to work legally in Thailand.
“We are trying to make sure our citizens obtain their fundamental rights granted by the laws of this country,” she said.
The chosen few
Thirteen Thailand-based activist groups for workers arranged for roughly 500 migrant workers to attend a question-and-answer session with Aung San Suu Kyi inside the factory.
But those who attended were chosen by their Thai bosses, said Htoo Chit, executive director of the Thailand-based migrant rights group Foundation for Education and Development.
“We thought one or two representatives from the 13 Thailand-based activist groups for workers that arranged for the migrant laborers to see Aung San Suu Kyi would have a chance to attend the meeting,” he said. “But it seems only the workers who were chosen by Thai bosses attended.”
“The workers who are really suffering couldn’t see Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said. “That’s why a lot of workers are in front of the hall and are showing their dissatisfaction.”
The discussion was limited partly because those allowed to attend the meeting earn the official minimum wage and have acceptable work conditions, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
Authorities in Thailand, which has fallen under military dictatorship during the same period that Myanmar has emerged from army rule, prevented labor rights groups from submitting documents to Aung San Suu Kyi about labor rights violations experienced by migrant workers from Myanmar, the report said.