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Suu Kyi to discuss refugee crisis during first state visit

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BANGKOK: Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will face questions about the refugee crises after her arrival in Bangkok today for her first official visit to strengthen ties between the neighboring countries.

While many observers view the Nobel-prize winner as the first Myanmar civilian government official in half a century, Ms Suu Kyi refrained from drawing attention to the military governance of Thailand, choosing to pay more attention to the fate of Myanmar citizens in the country.

Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-o-cha said yesterday that Ms Suu Kyi’s visit to Thailand was as a guest of the Thai government, not as a democratic icon.

“Previously [in 2012], she visited as a democratic leader, but today she is a representative of Myanmar’s government,” Gen Prayuth told reporters.

The visit, which ends Saturday, is expected to focus on the plight of Myanmar migrants and refugees, said Dulyapak Preecharush, a Thammasat University expert on Southeast Asia.

The Myanmar delegation is expected to sign pacts of cooperation with Thailand, focusing on improving the working conditions and living standards of the millions of Myanmar workers currently in Thailand.

More than 1.4 million migrants from Myanmar legally live and work in Thailand, but it is estimated that millions more reside in the country illegally, receiving poor treatment at the hands of employers and Thai authorities, Mr Dulyapak said.

Ms Suu Kyi will visit thousands of Myanmar workers in the seafood center of Mahachai today, which she had visited in 2012, when she was in Thailand for the World Economic Forum.

A group of social workers and human rights activists in Thailand called upon the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy icon to address the Rohingya issue properly during her visit.

Ms Suu Kyi, who insists on referring to the Rohingya as ‘people who believe in Islam’, is under pressure as there does not appear to be a clear solution as to how to deal with the Muslim minority at home, Mr Dulyapak said.

A government official said the Rohingya issue would not be on the table during the meeting between Ms Suu Kyi and Gen Prayuth.

— The Nation

 

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