Aung San Suu Kyi's goodwill visit to Thailand represents a beacon of hope to Myanmar's alienated migrant workers, refugees, exiled activists and border-based ethnic groups.
Myanmar’s inclusion as a member of Asean celebrates its rapid transformation and acknowledges the need for progressive reform, free from overt discrimination, unfair treatment and fear of reprisals.
The junta illegally seized power and control in 1988. With no true justice, no rule of law, no independent judiciary, a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing has been carried out against hapless minority victims, who have suffered egregious abuses including torture, rape, relocation and forced labour.
Suu Kyi’s meeting with Karen, Karenni, Arakan, Kachin and Shan minorities recalls the spirit of the Panlong Agreement which her father, national hero General Aung San, reached with ethnic groups in 1947. The “Angel of Mercy” inspires her fellow countrymen and -women with determination and courage awaiting return to civilian rule. Thailand has been a survival workplace for millions of Burmese labourers, who have significantly contributed toward advancing the Thai economy. Unfortunately, many hard-working job-seekers – whose sole goal is to find legal employment to meet their own basic needs and to create better lives for themselves and their families – have become victims of extortion, human trafficking, smuggling brokers, corrupt immigration officials and outdated policies that deny civil rights and social-welfare protection, even though Thai laws cover everyone on Thai soil.
It’s time to start an earnest dialogue and to expand it to a fair, negotiated 10-way pact, under the auspices of Asean, to protect migrants intent on pursuing their dreams with dignity and compassion.