From Afar, Myanmar Migrants Lament Military Takeover, Fear Economic Crisis – VOA
For the hundreds of thousands of Myanmar migrants who work in Thailand, a takeover by an army they loathe represents a dangerous collapse of a fragile democracy and the possible ruin of their route back home.
The fear for loved ones inside Myanmar, as the country steps into a future led by ruthless generals, is amplified by worries that the small economic gains of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration will soon be erased. The military took control of the government on Monday.
That dream began taking shape in 2010 when the army released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and started the clock toward the first widely representative elections in half a century.
Those took place in 2015, when a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s party ended 50 years of economic mismanagement and self-imposed isolation by the junta and its allies that sank Myanmar into poverty and turned the nation into a pariah.
The generals and their cronies became rich as they carved up the country’s vast natural resources. But the economic wasteland they wrought forced millions of Myanmar’s poorest to seek work abroad.
The majority moved to neighboring Thailand, where they continue to build the skyscrapers of Bangkok, work in its restaurants and navigate its fishing fleets to send remittances home.
Monday’s military takeover temporarily cut communications into the country. But for those abroad, it also severed hopes of economic progress and democracy eventually settling in.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government had overseen growth as Myanmar opened up to outside money, technology and skills, offering Myanmar migrants a glimpse of a pathway back to a freer, wealthier homeland.
Now, the threat of U.S. sanctions in response to the takeover, prolonged instability and a return to isolation led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, risks turning back the clock.
In 2019, Thailand was home to nearly 500,000 documented Myanmar migrants, according to the International Labor Organization, as well as tens of thousands more unregistered workers and displaced people, mainly from marginalized ethnic groups who fled civil war decades ago but have never returned.