Suu Kyi Promises Hope to Refugees

By Saw Yan Naing & Aung Ye Naing 2 June 2012

MAE SOT—Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told refugees in Mae La camp that she will try her best to achieve conditions whereby they can return to their homes in dignity and in safety.

Her message came when she addressed a cheering crowd of about 2,000 mostly Karen refugees at the the Thai-Burmese border on Saturday.

As her convoy passed through the refugee camp, Suu Kyi waved to the throngs of people lining the dirt-track streets of the camp many of whom, in return, shouted, “Long live amay [Mother] Suu!”

Many held posters reading, “Aung San Suu Kyi: Mother of Democracy, Our Hope and Our Future.”

“I won’t forget you. I will try my best for you,” Suu Kyi said by loudspeaker, almost inaudibly as the frenzied crowd chanted and squeezed closer.

A heavy security presence blocked dozens of international, Thai and Burmese journalists and photographers. Ahead of Suu Kyi’s arrival at the Mae La football park, local security guards had apprehended about 10 photographers and journalists for unknown reasons and ushered them out of the camp.

Suu Kyi had lunch at a clinic in Mae La at around noon, spending the rest of her time meeting camp leaders and touring a clinic.

Saw Tun Tun, the chairman of Mae La refugee camp, told journalists: “Daw Suu said she will raise the refugee issue with the international community.”

Refugee Nay Htet Lin said he always dreamed of meeting Suu Kyi. “Now I just want to return home,” he said. “If there is peace in my hometown, I will go back. I believe that Daw Suu can help us.”

Suu Kyi left Mae La refugee camp around 1 pm, but held a press conference at Mae Sot Airport ahead of flying back to Burma via Bangkok that same afternoon.

At the press conference, she told reporters that she had focused on two main issues during her discussion with Thai authorities on Saturday—that of Burmese migrant workers and refugees.

“These two issues are the most serious issues, and I discussed the refugees’ situation and the conditions that resulted in them becoming refugees,” she said.

“I am satisfied with my discussion with the [Thai] authorities and I will do whatever I can to help solve these two issues as soon as possible,” she said. “At this stage, it is only a discussion. No outcome has been achieved yet.”

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate said that many of the refugees she spoke to at Mae La refugee camp said they are worried they have been forgotten. She added that the goal was to create conditions in Burma that will enable migrant workers and refugees to return home.

Head District Officer of Mae Sot Preecha Jaipetch said, “As a result of Aung San Su Kyi’s visit, the Thai government is working on a policy to improve the situation of Burmese migrant workers.”

He said that the policy would include setting a minimum wage for legal Burmese workers, which will be equal to that of Thai citizens, ie: 500 baht (US $16) per day. This policy will be implemented within three to five years, he said.