During Aung San Suu Kyi’s final stop in Mae Sot on her brief whistle-stop tour in Thailand, the opposition leader was met with swollen streets, discord and reports alleging that the Thai government prevented her from publicly addressing Mae La refugee camp.
While a few journalists were able to sneak into Mae La, local and international reporters were officially barred from entering the grounds to cover Suu Kyi’s visit to the camp that is home to almost 50,000 refugees.
The gates to Mae La were locked after Suu Kyi entered on Saturday, while armed guards watched over the entrance to prevent journalists from entering.
The famed opposition leader was kept from giving a public address to the crowd that gathered within Mae La and resorted to shouting a few words to her supporters in the absence of a proper sound system.
“Since we have no mic here, I going to have to shout. They didn’t provide us [with a microphone] so what are we supposed to do?” said Suu Kyi. “I won’t forget any of you. We will work to ensure all of you can return home one day.”
According to an article on the Karen News website a massive crowd eagerly awaited the newly elected parliamentarian at Mae Tao clinic where she was scheduled to visit. However, the opposition leader’s convoy was driven straight to the airport from Mae La camp, where few journalists were allowed to attend a press conference before she flew back to Bangkok en route to Rangoon.
“Factory workers took the day of work, mothers carried their babies in the hope of seeing her and school children made signs and dressed in their uniforms,” said a medic at Mae Tao according to Karen News.
“The people love her, but today their hopes were dented by her not showing up.”
Throughout the day rumours swirled around Mae Sot concerning the abrupt nature of Suu Kyi’s trip. Reports spread by word of mouth about the collusion between the Thai and Burmese governments, who were deemed responsible for the brief visit. Others alleged an assassination plot had irked security officials.
Thomas Fuller of the New York Times quoted the governor of Tak province, Suriya Prasatbuntitya, as saying: “The Foreign Ministry asked us to keep her visit low-key.”
Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra herself conceded on Sunday that she was worried about the impact of Suu Kyi’s visit on the Kingdom’s diplomatic relationship with Burma.
Still, others were enthused that the famed icon came to visit.
“We came all the way from Myawaddy to see Aunt Suu,” said one male migrant. “The whole of [Myawaddy town] would’ve come if possible.”
While waiting tables in the Mae Sot’s night market on the eve of Suu Kyi’s visit, Nyein Ei Paing chatted with co-workers about getting time off so they could catch a glimpse of the icon while she was in town.
“I am so surprised because I never thought she would come to Mae Sot,”said Nyeing Ei Paing who has been working in Thailand for four years. “I would like to ask her when will we be totally free.”
“I’d like to go back if it’s peaceful.”