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Thai PM Visits Myanmar to Discuss Migrant Workers, Border Security

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C), his wife Naraporn Chan-ocha (2nd R) and his cabinet pray for the health of Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at the Siriraj hospital in Bangkok, Oct. 6, 2014.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of this year's military coup in Bangkok, is in neighboring Myanmar, also known as Burma, for high-level talks on trade, security and migrant workers.

A senior Myanmar official, who did not want to be identified by name, told VOA's Burmese service the Thai leader will meet in Naypyidaw with Myanmar President Thein Sein. He added that the two will discuss "the situation of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand" and "issues of mutual interest, including border security.”

The issue of cross border trade and recent disruptions caused by fighting on the Myanmar side of the border also are expected to be on the agenda.

It is the first official trip abroad for the Thai prime minister since he took power in a military coup earlier this year.

Sein Htay, Chairman of Migrant Workers Rights Network, reacted to news of the visit by calling for both government to address the issue of legal status for migrant workers in Thailand.

"The difficulties Burmese migrant workers are facing now is from being legally permitted workers [in Thailand] to becoming illegal workers. About 500,000 workers’ visa have expired since August 2013. Governments from both sides are not doing anything for them. That is the most pressing issue. Because they [migrant workers] have spent so much money to gain legal status. If they don’t have legal status, they have no one to report to about their problems,” said Sein Htay.

The issue of migrant workers became a leading topic again when Thai police arrested two Myanmar men for allegedly killing two British tourists on a resort island. The men now say they were tortured into confessing, a charge denied by Thai police.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese Service.