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Suu Kyi’s Message to Migrants Resonates in Cambodia

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Almost eight months after her election victory, Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week made an emotional journey to Bangkok, meeting with some of the more than 2 million migrants who have fled to Thailand to work as low-paid laborers.
Ms. Suu Kyi said she told the workers she hoped the situation in Burma was improving fast enough that they could soon return home and find work there—a message of optimism that elicited dramatic scenes of huddled Burmese workers crying in the rain as she spoke.
The speech also resonated with a more unlikely audience: those active on Cambodia’s thriving Facebook scene, where Ms. Suu Kyi’s message—translated and distilled to the simple “Come, let’s go back home” and superimposed on images of her talking—has spread rapidly since Saturday.
With some 600,000 Cambodians having left their families for higher wages in Thailand, despite frequent reports of abuse and poor working conditions across the border, Ms. Suu Kyi’s message hit a raw nerve.
“It is not only the language of a leader, but the language of a mother who has a bit of compassion for her children. There are not many of this type of leader. I’d like to see Aung San Suu Kyi visit Cambodia soon,” wrote Preap Kol, director of Transparency International Cambodia.
Mr. Kol’s message, posted on Saturday next to images of crying Burmese workers at Ms. Suu Kyi’s speech, drew 5,000 “likes” and 2,000 shares. It spurred a deluge of other posts, most borrowing the trope of Ms. Suu Kyi as a mother figure who, in contrast to Cambodia’s leaders, cares deeply about the plight of migrant workers.


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