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31-05-12, 12:23 AM #1
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The Lady delivers hope to Myanmar migrants
The Lady delivers hope to Myanmar migrants
Published: 30/05/2012 at 06:13 PMOnline news: Asia
SAMUT SAKHON - Visiting democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday morning told Myanmar migrant workers that she would work to develop their homeland so they could return home and get jobs there, and that she would raise their grievances with Thai authorities.
She conceded that troubles and hardships of the migrant workers were also rooted in Myanmar.
The Nobel Peace Laureate and opposition leader promised the thousands who flocked to hear her speak, and about 30 selected people inside a private meeting room, that she would raise their problems with the approriate authorities.
On Thursday afternoon Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) is scheduled to meet Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who chairs the Committee on Foreign Workers Administration.
Joy showed on the faces of the crowd, both Thais and Myanmar workers, who welcomed the 67-year-old laureate as she arrived to heed the grievances of the migrant workers in Samut Sakhon province, about 45 kilometres from Bangkok.
About two thousand people lined up for hours at Mahachai Villa Soi 9, home of the Migrant Worker Rights Network, before she arrived here at 10.10am. Greeting placards read "Mae Suu in Good Health," "Free Burma," "Long Live Democracy in Burma," "We Want to be Free from Slavery," and "When will We Be Able to Go Home?"
Suu Kyi's schedule was changed to the last minute, She was initially was scheduled to visit the national verification centre at Ban Ur-Arthon, but this was cancelled on Tuesday night. Another thousand people also gathered near the Prawn Market, the first stop of her visit here.
Suu Kyi arrived in Bangkok late Tuesday night. This is her oversea trip in more than two decades. In March 1988 she left England to tend her dying mother in Yangon and has not left the country since. For much of that time she has been under house arrest.
Previously she visited New York, where she was engaged to Michael Aris, and Bhutan, where the two were married in 1972. Suu Kyi went to Kyoto in 1985 for doctoral studies. She spent nine months at the University of Kyoto in Japan, followed by time at the Simla Institute in northern India with her husband before returning to Oxford in 1987.
Suu Kyi, speaking from the balcony of the Library and Office of the MWRN building, told the migrant workers that she came to Thailand to learn about their working and living conditions first hand.
"I will never forget you and I will discuss your troubles with the Thai government to help improve your well-being," the NLD Party leader said.
"I ask you to be patient and please work to your full potential as assigned by your employers. I'll try to develop our country so you can come back home and apply your skills and knowledge and make our country prosper," said Suu Kyi.
She called on the Myanmar migrant workers to work hard and not to damage the reputation of their country.
Accompanied by her close aides, Khun Tar Myint (chief security), Kyaw Thura, Dr Tin Mar Aung (personal doctor), and NLD MP from Naypidaw Ms Sandar Minn, Suu Kyi had a full one-hour session with some 30 Myanmar migrant workers and their families.
Five of them, including two women, stood before her to tell their stories. Moe Moe Thein, 42, from the Karen Pa-An area, has worked in a shrimp snack factory for about three years. She told Suu Kyi that she would like to return home. She had paid all her debts but had no money left.
Yan Nai Soe, 24, from Mawlamyine, works at an ice factory in Koh Samut in Samut Sakhon province. His 22-year-old wife was also trafficked from Peku on the way to Thailand.
Nai Lin, 25, from Sa-Gaing province, said his right hand was severed when he was working at a plastic factory three years ago. He received 95,000 baht compensation from the employer. He quit the job and is now selling rice to migrant workers.
Nai Zaw, 31, from Mague, had lost his right hand. He said he was paid compensation of 60,000 baht, with another 40,000 due to be paid within six month. In the meantime he has no job.
Nai Zaw said although Suu Kyi did not have executive power, she had been elected in to the parliament and he believed she would certainly do something to help the people.
"I'm very happy and excited to meet her in person. We all feel that with The Lady's freedom and her role in the Hluttaw (parliament), she will help address the issues of welfare and justice for the migrant workers," said Nai Zaw.
Nai Lin also said Suu Kyi is a good leader for his country, she has the heart to help with the migrants' problems.
Suu Kyi told the group of migrant workers that they needed to help themselves, but exchanging information and lessons learned.
Upon hearing of so many problems, she asked if there were lawyers representing the migrants. She suggested that the migrants themselves must assemble and have a small learning centre for sharing information, so they know how to protect their basic rights
The workers also complained about the high cost of national verification and registration, as well as the loopholes on health care. Half of those registered workers were not yet under the social security fund.
Outside the buildings, monks crowded along laymen. A monk from Arakan, who has been studying at Mahavajiralongkorn for four years, said he came with seven other monks from Phasicharoen district in Bangkok. He was excited as he saw the crowds cheering the NLD leader.
Three women from nearby Rungploo Market were seen crying as The Lady's car left. They said it was tears of joy.
Suu, 32, from Myawaddy, said she was very glad to see Suu Kyi.
"She's a real fighter, she has struggled all along. She will bring the country fame and prosperity. We don’t want others to look down upon the Myanmar people and the country," Suu said..
As a long-time resident in Samut Sakhon she was happy here, but was also looking forward to returning home one day soon.
Her friend Jampee, 34, from the same province, said though she could not see Suu Kyi's face clearly but just hearing her voice, she almost fell down with joy.
"We only see her from TV. We hear a lot about her. Now seeing her moving about freely, we are so joyful with her," said Jampee.
Samut Sakhon governor Junlaphat Sangchan said the province has improved facilities to support the migrant workers.
"Now we have 1,000 Myanmar-speaking health volunteers stationed at tambon levels to help the migrants talk with officials," he said.
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31-05-12, 12:26 AM #2
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Re: The Lady delivers hope to Myanmar migrants
Suu Kyi gets taste of home away from home
Samut Sakhon May 31, 2012 1:00 am
Photo : Nanthasit Nitmatha
Democracy leader vows to do her best for country as thousands of hopeful migrant workers greet her
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she felt at home when thousands of migrant workers gathered to greet their "Me Suu" (Mother Suu) with joy and the hope that she will take their country towards democracy and prosperity.
Her first overseas trip in 24 years kicked off yesterday in Samut Sakhon's Mahachai area, where she did not feel at all like a stranger because the town is the home and workplace for thousands of Myanmar migrant workers. In fact, many of them have lived in Mahachai for more than two decades now.
After hearing about her visit from local media, social networks and friends, Myanmar citizens gathered outside the office of the Migrant Worker's Rights Network (MWRN) hours before her arrival at 10am yesterday.
Many of the workers wore T-shirts with her image, or carried portraits of Suu Kyi and her father late General Aung San, as well as flowers and signs expressing their feelings and opinions.
"Want to be embraced by Mother Suu", one poster read. "Yes, I feel like she is our mother," affirmed 29-year-old Karen worker Chit Thu.
Nan Kyat Su Kyi, a restaurant worker who was standing nearby, said, "It is more than that. I feel like she is our queen. I think if she was given a chance to run the country, Myanmar would be a lot better than it is now."
Nan Kyat Su Kyi and her friends spent Bt400 on a taxi from Bangkok to Mahachai so they could catch a glimpse of Suu Kyi yesterday.
"We have come to see her, laud her and support her struggle for democracy and the future of our country," Ni Ni Moyo Aye, a young Karen woman, said.
Laup, a farm worker from the neighbouring Ratchaburi province, said he tried to follow Suu Kyi wherever she went in order to absorb her strong spirit. "If I have a chance to talk to her in person, I will say nothing but wish her good health, good spirit and happiness," the worker, who also goes by the name Wichai, said.
Suu Kyi spent an hour at the office of migrant workers' network in Mahachai, and told the gathering that she had learned much about their situation and living conditions in Thailand. "I can give you one promise - I will try my best for you," she said, to loud applause.
At the MWRN office, Suu Kyi met senior officials from the Samut Sakhon provincial authority, representatives of migrant workers as well as NGO staff members who raised several issues related to migrant workers in Thailand.
An NGO member said that Suu Kyi had promised that she would take the issue up with the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, where she will be attending a conference next month.
She told Myanmar workers that since they had to live and work under Thai laws and regulations, they should respect and obey the country's law and order.
"When you work in another country, be responsible and skilful, so people in the country can respect you," she
said, adding that they would become a valuable resource for their country once they return home. History is always changing. You are working here now, but when our country is developed, the value of workers will be higher. We won't forget you," she said.
Suu Kyi is hoping to use her time in Thailand addressing issues related to Myanmar concerns. She brought up the subject of migrant workers during her meeting with former prime minister and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday, and is planning to raise the issue again today when she meets Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who is in charge of migrant worker issues.
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