In her first visit outside her home country since 1988, Burmese democracy activist and member of parliament Aung San Suu Kyi visited migrant worker communities in Samut Sakhon Province, where 300,000 of Thailand’s estimated 2.5 million Burmese migrant workers live and work.
Suu Kyi met Wednesday with seafood-processing workers at the learning center of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), which is supported by the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) and the Solidarity Center. The MWRN provides legal protection and other services to migrant workers and has been involved in rescue operations of trafficked workers and victims of forced labor. Suu Kyi also met with representatives from the HRDF’s Migrant Justice Program and the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation (SERC)—both Solidarity Center allies—as well as leaders of Thai trade unions and staff of the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University.
Suu Kyi, who was greeted by throngs of cheering migrant workers, held a private talk with a select group who presented her with pressing issues related to working in Thailand, such as occupational health and safety, lack of access to workers’ compensation and social security funds, prevention of human trafficking, poor education among migrant children, and exploitation by brokers in the Nationality Verification process. Suu Kyi promised to bring these complaints to the host government and find a remedy.
Suu Kyi’s trip to Thailand is the first leg of a journey that will culminate in Oslo, Norway, where she will receive the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991.