06/27/2016, 00.02
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Myanma migrant workers laid off following Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit

Migrants lost their job because they took part in a meeting with the Myanmar leader. Some local officials were sacked as well. During her three-day visit, the Nobel Prize laureate signed three memoranda of understanding in connection with Myanma migrants in Thailand.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Thailand’s ruling military junta had many migrant workers laid off and at least 23 government officials sacked following Aung San Suu Kyi’s two-day visit (23-25 June) to the Southeast Asian country.

During her stay in Thailand, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader and foreign minister signed three memoranda of understanding to address the fate of millions of Myanma workers in Thailand, who often have no rights and are vulnerable to exploitation by local businesses.

During her visit, Ms Suu Kyi travelled to the Mahachai seafood market, southern Bangkok, where tens of thousands of people waited in the pouring rain to see her. Much to the dismay of those present, Thai authorities decided that only 500 people could meet the pro-Democracy leader.

Myanmar migrant workers accused local authorities of manipulating the arrangement so that only higher-paid employees in Thai factories were allowed to enter.

Her trip to the Tham Hin camp for Myanma refugees on the Thailand-Burma border in Ratchaburi province on Saturday was cancelled on the grounds of her security.

The three memoranda of understanding are related to border crossing, employment agreements and labour cooperation.

“I recognise that we in [Burma] are responsible for our people here. We will never neglect them,” Aung San Suu Kyi said.

She went on to add that thousands of jobs would be created for Myanma migrants who want to return home and that the refugees would be repatriated "when the time is right".

At least 4 million Myanma work in Thailand. Another 100,000 are in the country as refugees (including minority Rohingya Muslims) who have been stuck for years in refugee camps along the border between the two countries.

During Suu Kyi’s visit, officials from the two sides discussed the difficulties migrants experience when they lack a legal status and cannot enjoy fundamental rights.

With undocumented parents and no medical coverage, children cannot attend school. However, “I am confident that, because of mutual understanding between us, we will be able to address all the issues and problems of our people in the right way through consultation and through constant contact between decision makers,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate,

After the visit, the government’s decision to fire some officials, including the Mahachai district administrator, made the headlines.

Human rights activists also protested the firing of migrant workers who took part in the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. For U Sein Htay, country director for the Migrant Workers Rights Network, “according to Thai laws, an employer cannot fire the employees for being absent from work for just one day. It is not fair and the workers may complain to the Labour Department.”

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