Thailand’s Two Faces

FAR EAST CORRESPONDENT — Thailand hit the headlines twice this week. Bangkok won warm praise as host for Burma’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her first visit outside of her country in 24 years. Thousands cheered as “The Lady” toured, visiting Burmese migrant workers, listening to their stories and focusing on issues like health.

She told workers she would raise their issues with Thai authorities as well as at the upcoming International Labor Conference in Geneva.

Thailand was in part driven by self interest. With Burma opening its doors with promises of democracy, the rest of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is working overtime to integrate Burma with the ASEAN Economic Community that will emerge in 2015.

Thailand is also worried that Burmese migrant workers, for years a source of cheap labor, will return home. Nevertheless Suu Kyi was feted.

This was a far cry from the treatment meted out by Thailand to one of their own.The Bangkok Criminal Court found Chiranuch Premchaiporn guilty of computer crimes and sentenced her to one year in prison, reduced to eight months and suspended. Chiranuch is the website manager of the online news portal Prachatai. Read more in The Diplomat.

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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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