Aung San Suu Kyi Begins First Trip in 24 Years in Thailand


It’s been less than two years since her release from house arrest but Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is ready to go and has begun her first trip abroad in 24 years by offering encouragement to migrant workers in neighbouring Thailand.

Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest under Myanmar’s military dictatorship and even during brief periods of release, she has refused to leave the country before now for fear of not being allowed back in.

The opposition leader has a long history with politics and democracy. She is the daughter of the leader of Myanmar’s campaign for independence from British rule, Aung San, who is considered to be the father of modern-day Burma. She spent many years away from home but it was in 1988 when she returned to take care of her dying mother, that she got involved in the student-led democracy uprising and then helped found the National League for Democracy. It was shortly after this that she was first detained by the government.

Suu Kyi arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but didn’t take the time to settle in to her comfy hotel and instead headed for the nearby town of Mahachai as soon as possible. The town boasts Thailand’s largest population of Myanmar migrants.

When Suu Kyi arrived at the town she was greeted by many people, some of whom held signs that read, “We want to go home”. Suu Kyi told them that her visit was about learning how she could help them and she stated, “Today, I will make you one promise: I will try my best for you.”

Currently, it’s estimated that there are about three million migrant workers in Thailand, a large percentage of which are thought to be from Myanmar and many are believed to be mistreated. Suu Kyi’s first appearance saw her discussing many of their problems, including trafficking, forced labour and child labour.

Globe Trotting

Suu Kyi will be giving a speech at this week’s World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok. She was going to be joined by Thein Sein, a former general who convinced her to take part in Burma’s new political system; however, he has since cancelled according to Myanmar government sources.

This is just the first of her many public appearances scheduled on her trip. Next month she will also be visiting Switzerland, where she will address an international labour conference, Norway and Britain, where she will be giving a speech to both houses of parliament.

Suu Kyi has by no means had an easy life and after so many years of confinement, it is hoped that she may be able to help many and inspire change, not only in her own homeland, but around the world.

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