Suu Kyi addresses Burmese migrants on historic Thai trip

Workers welcome Suu Kyi as 'savior'
Workers welcome Suu Kyi as 'savior'


    Workers welcome Suu Kyi as 'savior'


Workers welcome Suu Kyi as 'savior' 02:59

Story highlights

  • Aung San Suu Kyi addresses crowds outside a Burmese migrants' center in Thailand
  • Myanmar opposition leader is on her first trip outside the country in more than 20 years
  • Onlookers climbed onto rooftops ahead of her speech in Mahachai, southwest of Bangkok
  • Suu Kyi told them she would try her best to look after migrant workers' rights

Some cried and others cheered in emotional scenes as pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi addressed thousands of Burmese migrants Wednesday on the outskirts of the Thai capital Bangkok.

It's the first time the Myanmar opposition leader has been outside the country, also known as Burma, in more than two decades after a long period of detention by the ruling military junta.

Burmese migrant workers dream of return home

Several thousand people gathered to hear her speak, many of whom had spent years living in exile to escape poverty and the country's oppressive regime.

From a balcony high above the crowd, Suu Kyi said that the onus was on the government of Myanmar and Burmese people everywhere to build a new country to encourage their return.

"Everybody has a responsibility. They too [Burmese workers] have a responsibility and we too have a responsibility to create the kind of country to which all our people can return, whenever they wish too."

Suu Kyi makes historic visit to Thailand
Suu Kyi makes historic visit to Thailand


    Suu Kyi makes historic visit to Thailand


Suu Kyi makes historic visit to Thailand 04:24

The peaceful freedom fighter

Suu Kyi historic arrival in Bangkok
Suu Kyi historic arrival in Bangkok


    Suu Kyi historic arrival in Bangkok


Suu Kyi historic arrival in Bangkok 01:53

Suu Kyi addressed the inequalities experienced by Burmese migrants in Thailand, who rights workers say are treated as cheap labor and second class citizens.

"The laws of this land which do provide protection for workers are not always observed by everybody concerned. This is due to two things," Suu Kyi said.

"One, of course, we need to educate our workers as to their rights, by what kind of legal means there are for defending their rights because whatever we negotiate with our host government we want to do it in a harmonious way. Of course we will also be asking for help and support from the local authorities," she said.

Onlookers waved flags and photos of the pro-democracy campaigner and her father General Aung San, a revolutionary who was assassinated six months before Myanmar's independence from British rule.

Some climbed onto rooftops for clearer view of Suu Kyi, whose National League of Democracy party won a number of seats in Parliament in April in the country's first free and fair vote in decades.

Before her arrival, Burmese migrants spoke of their desire for jobs within the country which has been ruled by a military junta since a bloodless coup in 1962.

"I want to hear good news from her. I want to hear about the independence of Burma and democracy and that there are jobs available," said San Nyo, a Burmese migrant from Daw who has been living in Thailand for three years.

Another, Myint Swe, a vendor who has lived in Thailand with his wife and three children for 12 years, told CNN: "I love Suu Kyi. This is a very happy moment. I want her to say we can come home and have jobs."

"It is tough living in Thailand. We get a lot of pressure from Thai police and passport control," he added.

Within the last two years, Myanmar's leadership has eased repressive controls on the country, allowing opposition parties to take part in the most recent elections.

Suu Kyi's visit to Bangkok comes ahead of a longer trip to Europe next month during which she will make a series of key addresses, including the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize that she was prevented from collecting in 1991 because she was in detention.

      Inside Myanmar

    • Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the last 20 years under house arrest.

      The peaceful freedom fighter

      Aung San Suu Kyi's rise to Myanmar's parliament caps a remarkable turn around for the pro-democracy campaigner, who was kept under house arrest for 15 years.
    • Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi smiles as she attend the 21st World Economic Forum on East Asia in bangkok on June 1, 2012.

      No time for 'reckless optimism'

      Aung Sun Suu Kyi tells WEF delegates in Thailand some healthy skepticism is needed when it comes to the country's recent reforms.
    • Supporters of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi cheer outside the Myanmar migrant workers community center following her visit in Samut Sakhon on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 30, 2012.

      Burmese migrants mob Suu Kyi

      By the time we arrived, a couple of hours before Suu Kyi was due, the streets were already thick with thousands of Burmese waiting to see her.
    • After declaring victory, Aung San Suu Kyi told her cheering supporters that it wasn't her victory, but their own.

      New chapter for thawing Myanmar

      Two years ago, Myanmar's leaders were doing all they could to silence Aung San Suu Kyi. Now they're poised to welcome her into parliament.
    • A Buddhist monk speaks to the crowd of supporters as they gather in downtown Yangon, 25 September 2007.

      Timeline: Key events in Myanmar

      From a bloodless coup in 1962 to Aung San Suu Kyi's win in 2012 elections, explore CNN's timeline of recent events in Myanmar.
    • pkg rivers myanmar game changer_00000429

      British PM's historic visit

      British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first western leader in decades to visit Myanmar, where he met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
    • Supporters cheer at a rally organized by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on March 28 in Yuzana.

      Vote a test of Myanmar's openness

      If Sunday's by-election in Myanmar is deemed to be free and fair, it will cap off a startling about-turn by the former military men currently running the country.
    • hancocks myanmar monks view_00003904

      A monk's view of changes

      Five years after a brutal crackdown in Myanmar, CNN's Paula Hancocks asks monks if they trust the current changes.
    • myanmar china border

      China, Myanmar still close

      While Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Myanmar might well unnerve China, analysts believe the relationship between the two Asian neighbors remains strong.