Thailand: finally facing good things

09 December 2011

Theresa and her husband Coby stand with their newborn daughter just days after she was released from detention. The family has since been resettled to the United States. Photo by Molly Mullen/JRS Asia Pacific

Bangkok, 9 December, 2011 – Alone in detention, Theresa survived for her unborn daughter. Now she lives for the future she forgot she had.

Theresa seemed like a different person last year. She was nearly nine months pregnant, hoping to be resettled to a new country and living with the possibility of having her first child born in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre (IDC), away from her husband.

“All I want is to be resettled with my husband and my baby. I want my baby to have a happy life without the difficulties that I have,” she said, moving her hand on her tiny belly in the IDC.

Since she was arrested for overstaying her Thai visa at four months pregnant, Coby, her husband, had only spent a few hours near Theresa, unable to care for his wife during her pregnancy.

“Every time I see her now, she is thinner. I worry so much,” he said.

Before his wife was arrested, Coby was eager about the possibility of making choices about his future with his wife. He escaped Sri Lanka after paramilitary groups bombed his home for not financially supporting their cause.  When they reached Thailand, they got married.

“We were happy then,” Coby recounted at the JRS office, miles away from his wife. “We were married and living together and we were safe away from the paramilitary groups. We could live our lives.”

He thought he was on the path to start a new life and make a family. They were recognised as refugees and were waiting to be resettled.

But everything changed one August day when she was arrested.

“I thought because I was pregnant they would not keep me there,” Theresa said. “But then the police took notes about me, and they brought me upstairs. Then I knew I wasn’t getting out.”

That’s when UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, got proactive to reunite the couple. Just 13 days before her baby girl was born she was released and reunited with her husband.

“They called me down to the (IDC) office,” Theresa said. “I didn’t know what they wanted, maybe information from me or to give me a message. The officer just said, ‘We are going to release you.’

“At first I didn’t believe it. I was so happy, I felt numb. It wasn’t until after I walked outside, got into a taxi and was driving away that I really believed that I was free,” she said.

The family is now three strong. Mary was born healthy 3 January, and is now growing up in the United States. Theresa, who was dangerously thin now looks healthy – a woman who used to fold her slender arms over chest and stare at the floor, now holds her baby with a glowing smile. Her husband, who cried for his wife living in detention, now cries with his wife in thanks for those who advocated for her release.

“We are very grateful to those who spoke on our behalf,” she said.

They are now planning for their futures that have been on hold since they left Sri Lanka. “Now that she is out of IDC, our family is finally facing many good things,” Coby said.

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