05/30/2012, 00.00
THAILAND - MYANMAR
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Bangkok: on first trip abroad, Aung San Suu Kyi meets with Burmese migrants

by Weena Kowitwanij
After 24 years as a prisoner in her own home, the democratic opposition leader on a visit to Thailand to attend the World Economic Forum. On June 1 she will speak to the assembly. The joy of migrant workers and refugees for the meeting. New agreements and economic development between Naypyidaw and Bangkok.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Today, Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democratic opposition in Myanmar, met with Burmese migrants who have lived and worked in neighboring Thailand for years. This is the first trip abroad in over 24 years for the Nobel Laureate, 15 of which she spent under house arrest at her home in Yangon because of her battle for human rights and freedom. On  June 1 in Bangkok, the "Lady" will attend the conference sponsored by the East Asia World Economic Forum (WEF), the following day she will visit a refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Myanmar before returning home, June 3. For decades, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), recently elected to Parliament, refused to leave her country for fear that the military junta would prevent her return, a choice that has also stopped her in 1999 , from assisting her terminally ill husband in London.

During the day Aung San Suu Kyi visited Mahachai, an area about 30 km south of Bangkok, inhabited mostly by Burmese migrant workers. People welcomed the "Lady", a symbol of the democratic struggle against the army and the regime, chanting slogans and waving signs saying "Free Burma" and "We want to go home." Mr. Somchai and Miss Bow, Burmese migrant workers who reside in the province of Samutsakorn, told AsiaNews that they were "grateful for the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi" because she "is a person of worth" and a source of "inspiration for Burmese workers ... we will share with her our experience of working in Thailand. "

During her visit the Nobel Laureate will meet with Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra Yingluck and Thai opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Bangkok government has recently approved the Memorandum of Understanding between Thailand and Myanmar, dedicated to projects of cooperation and development in Burma, economic reform and the promotion of civil society. Along with Thailand, China, India and South Korea - among the nations of the area - are looking with increasing interest at Naypyidaw. Earlier this month Seoul promised to increase aid to Myanmar and greater cooperation between the two countries on energy and exploitation of natural resources, growth is forecast to reach 7.7% in the period 2016-2020, compared to 4.8 of last year.

Afterwards, on June 1 Aung San Suu Kyi will speak at the World Economic Forum, on "empowering women" for developing countries in ASEAN, the association that brings together 10 nations of South-East Asia. The next day she will visit the northern Thai province of Tak, where 100 thousand migrants belonging to ethnic minorities in Myanmar live, having fled from areas of origin to escape the wars and repression of the military junta.

Initially the president of Myanmar Thein Sein was to attend the Bangkok Forum, instead he has decided to postpone the trip a few days. He will be in Thailand from June  4 and 5, perhaps to avoid sharing the international stage and being obscured by the opposition leader, as happened in the recent elections in which the NLD won 43 of the 45 seats available, outperforming the government party. In terms of reforms, the Burmese Minister for Information also spoke recently in a rare interview granted to the British BBC. "They will go forward," Kyaw Hsan said, both the government and the opposition must try to "find common ground" and "work together for the country."

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