Thailand: Sustaining Livelihoods
16 December 2016|Sasikarn Paankate, JRS Thailand
Mae Sot, 16 December 2016- Sharing a border with Myawaddy of Burma/Myanmar, the Mae Sot district of Tak province, a north-western province of Thailand, is notable as a trade hub as well as its substantial population of both Burmese migrants and refugees. As the original project comes to a close we share 3 voices from the communities that JRS has helped. This is the voice of Daw Sein Nyeint who was a direct beneficiary of JRS support.
Sustainable Livelihoods Project, Mae Sot, Thailand
Sharing a border with Myawaddy of Burma/Myanmar, the Mae Sot district of Tak province, a north-western province of Thailand, is notable as a trade hub as well as its substantial population of both Burmese migrants and refugees. Located 57 kilometres away (1-hour driving) from Mae La Temporary Shelter, the largest officially refugee camp in Thailand, that hosts approximately 39,000 refugees from Burma/Myanmar, the city has long been used as a site for community-based organizations (CBOs) and international aid agencies who provided support for both the migrants and refugees in the town and surrounding areas.
The general election in Myanmar held on 8 November 2015 was a historic political improvement, in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) received the landslide victory. As a result, the transfer of power is in process with the promise of the military government leader that the people’s choice and decision would be respected and the process would be done peacefully.
JRS has supported many CBO’s (community based organization) over the years and now see that the needs of our original objectives of the project have been met. We will suspend this project for a period of 1 year. After the 1 year JRS has committed itself to doing a needs assessment based on the progress toward peace Myanmar has achieved and how that has affected the Mae Sot community.
As the original project comes to a close we share 3 voices from the communities that JRS has helped. This is the voice of Daw Sein Nyeint who was a direct beneficiary of JRS Support.
Daw Sein Nyeint
Daw Sein Nyeint is a 60 years old Arakanese CDP, who fled from conflict between the Arakaneses and the Rohingyas to Thailand in 2015.
Daw Sein Nyeith has 7 children, 2 sons and 5 daughters. 3 daughters are living with her in Thailand and the other children remain in Myanmar. She had a husband, but he passed away many years ago because of sickness.
In Myanmar, Daw Sein Nyeith supported her family by selling dry fish. Due to the constant clashes between the Rohingyas and other people from Arakan and Rohingyas, she found it difficult to travel out of the village to get supplies (i.e. fish and ingredients) for her business, and she could sell less and less dry fish as people were moving away and those who remained were very poor.
Daw Sein Nyeith and her family were also living in fear as random people were always killed during clashes. She decided to travel with one of her daughters, whose husband already came to Mae Sot a few years before, hoping that her son-in-law would help them settling down in Thailand.
When Daw Sein Nyeith and her daughter arrived in Thailand, they, however, found out that the son-in-law had a new wife and did not want to help both of them.
Having no skills needed for working at factories, Daw Sein Nyeith and her daughter have been struggling to survive in Mae Sot. They do so by collecting wild vegetables to sell daily in front of a factory close to their house. (She earns 100 – 150 THB a day.) Many times, during the drought, they could not find enough vegetable to be sold so they did not get money for days.
A few months after Daw Sien Nyeit arrived her other 2 daughters, one single mother with a 3-year-old son and the other one who is married with an alcoholic husband followed her to Thailand.
All of them lived in the same house as they were barely able to earn money. The alcoholic son-in-law kept beating her daughter, as she would not gave him money for drinks. Until one day, the daughter was injured so bad that Daw Sien Nyeit could not bear it anymore.
She reported the incidents to an Arakanese organization that helped her and her family make the son-in-law go away.
Daw Sien Nyiet and her three daughters are currently living in the remote area of Mae Pa sub-district. Although they are living in Mae Sot as illegal immigrants and facing the possibilities that they might be arrested by police anytime, Daw Sien Nyeint and the family feel safer than staying in their own village in Myanmar.
For example, they do not have fear of their lives while travelling to markets or other places. They also believe that there are more job opportunities for them than in their village. None of them can speak Thai but it does not seem to be a barrier as there is a large population of both legal and illegal workers from Arakan State in the community.
Daw Sien Nyeit was identified by the JRS project to receive IGA (income generating activity) support. Since March 2016, She received materials and equipments for making 2 types of traditional Arakanese snacks.
The materials and equipments included sticky rice, rice flour, sugar, and plastic bowls (worth 6,000 THB). The snacks are made daily and she walks about 2 kilometers to sell them in front of the factories that she used to sell the wild vegetables close to her house.
Additionally, the cooking is done in the afternoon so she has more time to do other things that are needed to support her family.
She expressed her gratitude to JRS for all the support. She is so happy that she does not have to worry everyday about what would she do if she could not find vegetables. She also has some savings that she already used to fix the roof of her house in Myanmar, where her elderly mom is living.
Daw Sein Nyiet expressed that she did not know much about politics, however, she believes that the situation inside Myanmar will get better and better after the election as people say that the NLD is good. She plans to go back to her hometown in 5 years (after she saves enough money and the situation is better), as her mother is very old. She would like to go back to take care of her mother and she wants to spend the rest of her life there.
By Sasikarn Paankate, JRS Thailand
 “Daw” can be directly translated as “Aunt or Ms”, which is used to address a mature women or a woman in a senior position.