Forgotten Burmese Victims of Tsunami Rebuild Thai Resorts
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Sunday, June 16, 2019
Burma

Forgotten Burmese Victims of Tsunami Rebuild Thai Resorts


By Alisa Tang/AP Writer/Takua Pa, Thailand Monday, June 27, 2005


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A rash covered the boy's shoulders, back and chest with sand grain-sized bumps.


There was less bitterness in their voices than a mere sad acceptance of their fate as the poorest of Thailand's poor.


“My life was very hard in Burma, so I had to come to Thailand. It felt awful that no one came to help after my son, nephew and niece died,” said Aung Than. “Still, life is better here than at home.”


While the Thai government handed out US $500 (euro400) to each Thai survivor, most of the Burmese, who have contributed greatly to Thailand's economy, received nothing and were afraid to ask for help for fear of being arrested or harassed by authorities.


Thai police made Burma migrants scapegoats by publicly accusing them of looting after the tsunami, worsening discrimination against them.


Min Zaw, a 26-year-old construction worker who lost both his in-laws, helped an injured Western tourist flee the waves, and then fled himself to Burma, fearing authorities' arbitrary, groundless arrests. He returned when he knew he would be needed to rebuild.


“I came back, but of my former work crew of 20 guys, 16 are in Burma because they were scared of the authorities,” Min Zaw said.


Amnesty International in a report this month said Burma migrant workers take jobs that Thais consider too dirty, dangerous or demeaning. They “are routinely paid well below the Thai minimum wage, work long hours in unhealthy conditions and are at risk of arbitrary arrest and deportation,” the report said.


Still, hundreds of thousands have fled Burma's repressive military regime and high unemployment in search of jobs in far more prosperous Thailand. Sitting on the floor of a one-room cinder block home in Phang Nga's Bang Niang district, Burma rubber tappers told of being passed over by Thai aid donors.


“They asked if we were Thai or Burmese. When we said Burmese, they told us, 'Get out of here” said Yee Than, 32, who was born in Thailand but is a Burmese citizen. “We're migrant laborers, so they treat us badly.”


How does that make her feel?

 
“We're poor people. We don't feel anything.”


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