THASONGYANG, TAK Aung San Suu Kyi made a pledge to thousands of refugees at a border camp that they would not be forgotten, but added that peace and prosperity must be established in Myanmar before they can return home.
OFFERING HOPE: Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi talks to refugees during her visit to Mae La refugee camp near the Thai-Myanmar border in Tak’s Mae Sot district yesterday. PHOTO: CHANAT KATANYU
The leader of the opposition National League for Democracy toured Mae La camp 10km from the border after confusion over her schedule, which saw her leading a motorcade through the camp and waving to the crowds but not officially addressing them at an open field as had been planned.
Ethnic leaders and health workers were also disappointed that they missed the opportunity to meet the democracy icon, who visited a health clinic at the camp.
- See also: Thousands greet The Lady
- Meanwhile, in Myanmar: Charm offensive, ugly face
- Myanmar capitalists: Credit and help for small businesses
''I would like them to understand that we are not going to forget and that we will do everything possible to make their situation better,'' Mrs Suu Kyi said after her tour.
Asked if the refugees wanted to return home, she said the main prerequisite was peace and improving the economic situation in Myanmar so there were enough jobs for them.
''I don't think we need to return the refugees overnight,'' she said.
''Because if the situation was right, refugees would go back of their own free will.''
She said young refugees should also look at what they can contribute to improve country if they were to return home.
''I'm old fashioned. I believe in duty and would like the young people to foster a sense of duty,'' she said.
Naign Aung, from the Forum for Democracy in Burma, said that a dozen ethnic leaders, including David Thakarbaw, from the Karen National Union, had shown up at the camp, hoping to meet Mrs Suu Kyi.
''Certainly, it was regrettable that the Thai authorities did not allow us to meet her. We just wanted to tell her how important it was that democracy exile groups and ethnic exiles work in solidarity with her towards democratisation in Myanmar,'' Naign Aung said.
He also said the exile community had doubted whether Myanmar and Thai authorities would allow her to meet with the dissidents.
''The last-minute cancellation has confirmed our suspicion about the Burmese government that they did not want to give her a free hand,'' he said.
Mrs Suu Kyi backed the ongoing peace negotiations between ethnic groups and the Myanmar government.
''Of course, peace talks have to be conducted because peace or the lack of it is the main reason why there are refugees,'' she said.
About the author
- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat