Mgmau Than Win, Tha Tha Lei, Mo Taw Too, No Moo, Wahmei and Moomoo Eh, on their farm near Mae Sot
This is Wahmei's family. His is 37, and fled to Thailand with his two sisters when their village was attacked and burnt down by the DKBA and SPDC. He scratches out a living as a tenant farmer a few miles outside of Mae Sot, growing corn, while his sisters and their children work as day labourers for B50 (75p) a day. Wahmei, his wife, children, and sisters are illegal economic migrants who live in fear of being discovered by the Thai authorities and sent back over the border. He says, "There were so many fears in Burma, now we only have one; the police." Between 200-300 illegal migrants are sent back to Burma from the border area every day. There is a 'migrant jail' adjacent to the police station in Mae Sot, which is filled every night with people found by the police in night and dawn raids. In the morning they are returned to Burma, and if they are not handed directly to the Burmese authorities, at whose hands they risk severe punishment, they are back in Mae Sot by the afternoon. Often this can be avoided by bribing officials, if they have the cash. "Sometimes the Thai government policies seem the same as the SPDC - corrupt, powerful and able to control our lives."
The benefits of living on the coattails of the Thai economy are enough to encourage many families to cross the border. The cost of living is ten times less here than at home in Burma, their day-to-day lives are relatively secure, the children are educated at a migrant school, and they are near enough to Mae Sot to access healthcare at the Mae Tao Clinic. The family seems happy, their quality of life is so much better here. And, unusually, the three siblings are still living together.