Mahachai: In her first trip abroad in nearly a quarter-century, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday visited impoverished Burmese migrants in Thailand.
Extending a hand of help and offering encouragement, Suu Kyi, on a visit to Mahachai, said: “Don’t feel down, or weak. History is always changing”.
Many held signs saying, “We want to go home”, and Suu Kyi said her visit was aimed at learning how she could help them.
“Today, I will make you one promise: I will try my best for you,” she said.
Mahachai, a town which is about 20 miles (30 kilometres) southwest of Bangkok, is home to the largest population of Burmese migrants in Thailand.
The migrants’ flight to neighbouring Thailand is emblematic of the devastation wrought on her homeland by decades of misrule.
Fixing a battered economy is one of the most crucial challenges facing Myanmar, also known as Burma, as it opens up in the wake of 49 years of military governance that ended only last year.
Suu Kyi's arrival in Bangkok late Tuesday offered proof of how confident the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is in the nation's new reformist leaders. She spent 15 of the last 24 years under house arrest, daring not to leave even to visit her dying husband because she was so fearful that the nation's Army rulers would not allow her to return.
Now, in a sign of how much life there has changed, the democracy activist and newly-elected member of Parliament is travelling across Thailand, comfortable in the notion she'll be able to go back home.
Thailand hosts around 2.5 million impoverished Burmese who have fled here to work low-skilled jobs as domestic servants or in manual labour industries like fisheries and the garment sector.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 10:58