By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer
Samut Sakhon, THAILAND —A number of Thai officials and law enforcement officers have reportedly been transferred to other positions, and some are reported to have lost their jobs entirely, following a visit from Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi to Talad Talay Thai in Samut Sakhon province. The area is known as “Little Myanmar” due the large number of Myanmar migrants working there, who mostly work in fishing and manufacturing.
Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to a group of migrant workers at the Talay Thai Hall, though their numbers were smaller than expected. Although about 500 migrant workers had been “selected” by business owners to attend the gathering, only about 200 were permitted inside. Thousands reportedly gathered nearby hoping to see the State Counsellor, claiming that those with the “worst” grievances were not permitted to attend.
Migrants living and working in Thailand have long complained of abuse from business owners and Thai officials. International groups have also reported abuses in the area, including allegations of human trafficking, forced labor, child labor and discrimination. The migrants are especially vulnerable because they lack citizenship status, and there is great confusion among the general population and even migrant aid groups as to what Thai law requires.
During her visit, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Thai Prime Minister Prayutth Chan-o-cha to negotiate two agreements and a memorandum of understanding, which discuss employment, labor cooperation and border crossing. The goal of the negotiations is to simplify the process and provide information to the migrants. One aspect would create a pre-departure orientation center in Maw Sot, Tak province.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won Myanmar’s first free and fair parliamentary elections in November 2015. Although the leader of the party, she was not permitted to be “President” due to a constitutional amendment that bars persons with foreign relatives from holding that title. As a result, the position of “State Counsellor” was created specifically for her, allowing her to rule by proxy. Despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s international status as an advocate for democracy (she was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991), she and her party have faced criticism for not addressing the plight of the Rohingya.
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