Migrants hope for a better year in their adopted land

The spirit of the holidays is coming to an end but a pair of Myanmar migrants and their families hold out hopes for a better year in their adopted home.

Nang Noum Mae Seng, 32, a Shan migrant confined to a wheelchair after an accident at a construction site, was carried from her Chiang Mai residence to visit siblings who travelled from Myanmar over New Year.

Nang Noum said the visit brought her joy. She has been largely confined to a small rented room over the past six years.

Her New Year's wish is for an occupational training facility to help disabled migrants like herself become more independent in their adopted country.

"I feel glad for disabled Thai workers who are supported by the state on job re-training," she said.

"I want to be able to work again to feel valuable and independent."

She has been living with her unmarried elder sister in a row house in Hangdong's Mae Hia sub-district. Her sister and relatives, also migrants, have been taking care of her, but she hopes to rely on herself one day.

Despite her struggles, she considers herself more fortunate than other migrants.

After her accident her employers paid her compensation that far exceeded amounts stipulated by the Social Security Office (SSO).

Many migrant workers remain excluded from the Workmen's Compensation Fund (WCF), run by the SSO, since they often lack valid documents to prove their legal status.

Mai Kaewma, 12, a child of a migrant family, attends school in Sankampaeng, five minutes from a construction site where his parents have been working as masons.

For young Mai, his New Year wish is to be treated with respect by his Thai teachers and given a chance to continue his education. Perhaps some day he will become a footballer, he said.

Mai's grades are among the top five in his class at Wasant Mahok Fah School, where one-third of pupils are children of migrants.

He spends most of his spare time studying maths and art.

"I am bitterly discouraged when I hear people call us illegal aliens," he said. "I don't want to feel excluded or refused."

His parents emigrated from Laikha in Myanmar's Shan state 13 years ago. They have moved around working in orchards and doing masonry work.

They said construction work pays well and doesn't expose them to as many hazardous chemicals.

About the author

Writer: Achara Ashayagachat
Position: Senior Reporter