Burmese Refugees in Thailand
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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.”