Migrant Rights Advocate: ‘If the Thai Government Uses Violence, We Won’t Tolerate it”

By Nyein Nyein 23 June 2016

The Irrawaddy reporter Nyein Nyein talks to Htoo Chit, migrant rights advocate and director of the Foundation for Education Development (FED), outside Talay Thai Seafood Market in Mahachai, Thailand—where Aung San Suu Kyi will meet with migrant workers from Burma on Thursday afternoon—about the Thai government’s selection process for the meeting and why banned workers protested the decision.

Thousands of Burmese migrant workers gathered Thursday morning to meet with Suu Kyi later that day, but the Thai government and factories selected only 500 workers for the meeting while the rest were banned.

What do you think of the current situation?

We expected Suu Kyi to meet with migrants and listen their problems. But now the Thai government won’t allow migrants in who have been waiting since very early this morning. They are saying that they will only allow selected workers from the factories; so, banned workers are blocking the selected workers.

Since they will only allow 500 workers to the meeting, everyone is not supposed to go inside. But we worry that those selected workers will just sit inside and not disclose the real situation. She and the Thai government can only find a solution for the migrant workers if they hear the real situation. If they meet only with workers who are instructed by the factories, it won’t solve migrants’ issues.

As your organization is also not allowed inside, how you will try to have your voice heard by Suu Kyi?

We have prepared various ways. We [migrants’ advocacy groups] did a joint report with suggestions on migrant policies. We want her to clearly understand the details of the murder cases in Ranong and Koh Tao and that also as a government, that they need a policy to systematically protect migrants.

So we came here today to give that [suggestion]. It is still unclear whether we can go inside or not.

The banned workers are protesting and blocking the selected workers. What would you advise?

I have concerns about this. They arrived very early. If they don’t allow them in and only selected factory workers enter, it is unfair. They might try other ways to get the chance to talk with Suu Kyi. I worry that the Thai government will use violence to disperse them because they are a military regime. I would like to advise them to wait and see, orderly and together. But if they [the Thai government] use violence, we won’t tolerate it.