Prayut, Suu Kyi pledge to help Myanmar workers

Prayut, Suu Kyi pledge to help Myanmar workers

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a ceremony at Government House on Friday. (Reuters Photo)
Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during a ceremony at Government House on Friday. (Reuters Photo)

Thailand and Myanmar agreed on Friday to improve the conditions of workers from the neighbouring country and to step up the fight against human trafficking.

Their determination was reflected in three memoranda of understanding signed during a meeting between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Myanmar State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi at Government House.

The labour issue has been a key focus of the visit by the de facto leader of Myanmar, who was cheered by thousands of her countrymen at Talad Talay Thai in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon, after arriving from Yangon on Thursday.

The agreements signed on Friday called for fair benefits for migrant workers, better protection, skill improvement and cooperation between the two countries to fight human trafficking.

Some representatives of workers from Myanmar complained about wages and working conditions during their meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday.

The two leaders on Friday also vowed to step up economic cooperation including the Dawei special economic zone, and to work together on attempts to repatriate Myanmar refugees now staying in Thailand.

The two governments would join hands to repatriate those who fled border wars in Myanmar when conditions in the neighbouring country were ready, Gen Prayut said in a joint news conference.

Thailand avoids using the term "refugees" and calls them displaced persons instead of refugees as the country is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which would let the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees get directly involved in the issue.

Ms Suu Kyi said refugees deserved a chance to develop skills and job opportunities when they returned to Myanmar. "They want to have the opportunity that can make them stand on their own two feet", she said.

More than 100,000 refugees have been living in camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border for years and even decades.

"What we want is that all people displaced from our country should come back to us and should come back to the kind of conditions which [would encourage them to] never want to move again," Ms Suu Kyi told a news conference in Bangkok.

"For this we will need to do a lot of work," she cautioned, stressing that it would take time to revive an economy battered by mismanagement under the former junta.

"Job creation is of the greatest importance for our country. Everywhere I've been in Myanmar people have talked about their need for jobs," she said.

Discussing the peace process earlier, she said there must be trust between all conflicting groups in the country before there can be full peace.

Addressing a group of students in Bangkok, she said her government was working "to turn conflict into friendship, to turn conflict into mutual trust and understanding".

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