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Burmese Refugees in Thailand

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Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Thida has seven children and arrived in Phuket two days before the tsunami hit. She paid a trafficker $1000 dollars to get over the border from Burma who took her money and abandoned her with her children. Her husband works construction for $10 a day and with great sadness Thida realizes that she most likely will never see her country again.
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. This woman saved her money and sent her five-year-old daughter back to Burma to live. She thought she would have a better life with her grandparents rather than living in a slum with no schooling. The little girl drowned in a lake five days after she arrived.
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Many of the men spend a day, a week or up to a month out at sea on precarious fishing boats, earning about $200 a month, while the women work at the port or at home scaling and sorting fish. A man kisses his grandson goodbye as he’s about to leave for a few weeks.
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Many of the Burmese living at Rashada Pier in Phuket have had their ID’s stolen from them by the traffickers and they will never make enough income to leave. They are indebted to the slumlords to live in these shanty-towns and as they’re illegal must pay police bribes every month.
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Fishing is the main source of income for the Burmese refugees. Men and women peel the heads of small fish to help earn a living. One seven kilo bag will bring in about 70 THB (about $2.00 a bag).
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Most of the Burmese are not allowed refugee status and live in abysmal conditions at Rashada Pier. They must pay about $150 a month to these slum owners as well as monthly bribes to the police.
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. A couple peel the heads of small fish to help earn a living as their baby sleeps in the background in their home. One seven kilo bag will bring in about 70 THB (about $2.00 a bag).
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Most of the Burmese in Thailand are not allowed refugee status and live in abysmal conditions at Rashada Pier, leaving the children with limited access to schooling and healthcare. This boy is swimming, as many of the children do, in the filthy stagnant water that surrounds their home. The outhouse that is used as their toilet is in back of him.
Burmese refugees in Phuket, Thailand. Many of the men spend a day, a week or up to a month out at sea on the precarious fishing boats, earning about $200 a month, while the women work at the port or at home scaling and sorting fish.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We raised money to support the work of The Good Shepherd, a local NGO, who has set up a small basic school for children and a home for pregnant women. Funds are still needed for a mobile medical unit that can visit and provide basic healthcare to Burmese migrant workers.
It is estimated that over two million Burmese refugees live in Thailand, with a high percentage living on the heavily tourist-populated island of Phuket. These Burmese fleeing the oppressive militant government of their country are illegally smuggled over the northern Thai/Burma border by Thai traffickers with the promise of a better life on the other side. Often they are robbed and abandoned.

Many of these Burmese arrive in Thailand without proper documentation or have their passports and identity cards stolen and sold by the trafficker. With no identification these immigrants are unable to return to Burma. This keeps them financially bound to their landlords and bosses, as well as vulnerable to bribe situations by the police. The majority of these immigrants are forced into grueling labor on construction sites or sent out to sea on precarious fishing boats earning less than $200 a month. The women sort fish on the docks or peel the heads off small fish. One seven-kilo bag will bring in about 70 THB (about $2.00 US). Most of the immigrant workers live in Bangjo consisting mostly construction workers and Rashada Pier that houses most of the fisherman and their families.

In this cycle of poverty and indentured financial debt the Burmese have little hope of ever breaking out of the squalid conditions in which they now live, let alone ever making it back to their own country.
Because of the poor Thai/Burmese relations and loss of identity, these immigrants are technically not allowed refugee status. This leaves them with no rights to school or healthcare in Thailand and basically working as indentured laborers.

The NGO The Good Shepherd has set up a small basic school for the children. They have also set up a home for pregnant women and are working to get a mobile medical unit that can visit and provide basic healthcare to those who live in the camps. As bad as the conditions are there is still fear and doubt of returning to the militaristic stronghold of their home country. When asked why they risked their lives to work in such dangerous and filthy conditions in a foreign land for less than $10.00 a day a man replied, “Because in our own we would get only $5.00 a day.”