Friday, April 11, 2008

Lives of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand

In memory of the 54 Burmese migrant workers who suffocated to death in Thailand on Friday, I have brought together -- in one place -- excerpts from previous Jotman blog posts concerning the plight of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand:

In September 2006 I blogged from the northern Thai border town of Mae Sae:
Going further up the river, I almost walked right past a small Thai army checkpoint. I spoke at some length with a Thai army sergeant, while a procession of Burmese on bicycles streamed past us. Some of the young men took a steep path to the river where they quickly stripped down to their underwear. Their clothes contained in clear plastic bags, they waded and then swam across the river. Past where we stood, the Burmese border extended over to our side of the river.

"Where's the border line?" I asked the sergeant.

"See that white dog?" Through the bushes I could see the animal sleeping. "That dog belongs to the Myanmar army."

The sergeant told me the Burmese were permitted stay on the Thai side for one day.

Suddenly, the sergeant looked at me quizzically. "Why are you interested in this?" Scowling, he pointed in the direction of the myriad border-crossers, "All this, it is so very low-so." Using Thai lingo, the sergeant wanted to know why a Westerner would have interest in the activities of low-society people.
In October 2007 I interviewed some Burmese migrant workers near Mae Sot, a town on the Thai Burma border:

In November 2007, I took this photo, and commented:
I almost walked past this cart without noticing the little Burmese boy it contained. Although he looks a bit forsaken, he had not been abandoned. His mother was hard at work nearby.

On another occasion last fall, standing on a riverbank, my Burmese guide explained how some of his countrymen travel back and forth across the border:
Frank spoke quickly, he mentioned how rotten his government was; he proceeded to point out some Burmese commuters. On the other riverbank, four young men were boarding a truck inner-tube. They pushed it into the river and then they piled in. Paddling with their hands the river carried them straight towards us. We watched them disembark on the sandy bank directly below where we stood.

"In total, they pay one thousand baht (US$40) to get across, half goes in the pockets of the Burma soldier." It was clear from Franks tone of voice that Frank didn't like Burmese soldiers. . . .
To read more of my reports concerning the Burma crisis, see here.

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