They work abroad to feed their families. Now they can’t send money home


“I left her with my mother,” said a 26-year-old Myanmar migrant worker living in Thailand.

Every morning, there are long queues of people outside banks and ATMs in Myanmar. Withdrawals have been limited About 200,000 kyats ($120) per day per customer and some have even run out of cash as people stop depositing money due to security concerns.

“Usually, when I send money back home my family is able to withdraw the cash the next day,” Su said. “But lately the internet is not working and withdrawing money is difficult, and we don’t think we can even trust the bank.”

Su and her husband are among them According to the migrant labor group, there are 1.7 million Myanmar citizens working in neighboring Thailand, and part of a significant network of foreign workers supporting relatives at home. International Labor Organization (ILO) an estimate In 2015, about $1.4 billion was sent to Myanmar from foreign workers.

Current status left thousands of migrants living together Continuing concern not only for the financial well-being of their loved ones, but also for their safety. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), more than 860 people have been killed and more than 6,000 arrested by security forces since the coup.

Su’s mother tells her not to worry, as the fighting in their village is not intense. “But they have to be careful,” Su said. “They don’t sleep soundly anymore and can barely pass out.”

Yet without money to stockpile food or medicine, it won’t be easy to keep short in the long run.

She said, “I want to live back in Myanmar to work, because we find it very difficult to work in other countries and I also want to stay at home with my family.”

But she fears what will happen if she and her 30-year-old husband, who works in a factory in Bangkok, return. “If we try to go back they will arrest us, even if we don’t engage in politics,” she said.

Zaw speaks of the agony of watching from afar, while his country churns out in turmoil as Myanmar’s military, Tatmadaw, continues its brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters. “I can’t go back and fight,” he said. “Even though I don’t mind risking my life for the next generation, I want real democracy in my country.”

Rising poverty in Myanmar

Before the coup, Christina’s older brother usually sent home up to $240 a month from Thailand, on which her family of 10 depended for food and medicine. It all stopped after the coup when the banks were closed.

Christina, who is using a pseudonym for security reasons, Said the family had to leave their home in the town of Mindat in Myanmar’s southern Chin state, when the fight started there. Now, this is Not only food they need.

“Because we are in a place where there are no doctors and nurses, even for headaches we are struggling to buy medicine because it has been a few months,” she said.

They are unable to return home even to plant the new crop on which they were dependent for food and to sell, so the next few years will be difficult, she said. They are currently living in a camp for the internally displaced people.

As bombs bomb the center of Myanmar's rural resistance, thousands flee into the wild without food or water

Wai, who also uses a pseudonym for security reasons, said his brother is working in Thailand and used to send $150 to $180 a month home to his elderly mother who lives alone in her village. He used it for medicine because he said that his health was deteriorating. Vai said that his mother was saving some remittances, but in a month her stock would be exhausted.

Vai said, “Since I have a family, I can’t even support her. My brother can’t send money. So the mother is using her savings to feed herself and borrowing from other family members in the village.” is falling.”

“I sell food in factories and we were fine before the coup. But after the coup, most of the factories closed, and I couldn’t sell anymore. So, we are struggling. So, I asked my brother for me. Asked to send some money. He said he will. But since we could not get it from here, our family is also in trouble.”

a report published The United Nations estimated in late April that half of Myanmar’s population could live in poverty by early 2022 due to “severe negative shocks”. The report found that 83% of Myanmar households reported their Income, on average, was almost halved due to covid pandemic.

The situation has worsened since the coup.

scared for the safety of the family

Ma Oo has lived in Thailand for 20 years, helping migrant workers secure documents and advocating for their rights to work legally. Her children study in Thailand, and now work in the country. But she worries about the rest of her family who are left in Myanmar’s Shan State.

That said, her father worked as a public relations organizer for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the democratically elected party that was ousted from power by a military coup. Ma Oo believes her father was arrested, but even now, four months later, she still doesn’t know for sure.

“The army detained all the people associated with the NLD. I lost touch with my father as soon as I heard about the coup. I am worried for my entire family as we are all involved in the party. My father was killed in 1990. He was arrested twice in the decade of 1990. Now we assume that he is arrested again as we have lost contact with him because of his involvement in NLD.”

Not knowing about the whereabouts or welfare of family members trapped in military junta action is painful for those unable to return home.

Ma Oo advocates for migrant rights in Bangkok, Thailand in May 2021

Kyokyani, 35, works in a bakery in Bangkok. His wife works in a garment factory, but he says his 85-year-old mother is too weak to join him. From his village in the Mandalay region of Myanmar.

Kyokyani, who wished to be known by one name for security, said his elder brother was recently arrested by security forces and was kept in custody for three days. “Due to the protests, the army is pressurizing our village and they wanted to arrest the protesting leaders. But they could not find them, so they arrested my brother,” he said.

“I am very sad and worried about my family,” he said, adding that most of the people living in villages are daily wage laborers and struggle to make a living. “I can’t go back and help them and that makes me worry about them even more.”

Kyokyani said that business collapsed when Covid hit, and he could not send home as much money as he usually did. The coup has made things worse and he hasn’t been able to send any money since the military seized power.

Even maintaining oneself is challenging.

“There are fewer jobs here in Thailand and I still have to spend for my housing and food, so I may not be paid as much as before,” he said.

A migrant worker in May 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Fellow migrant worker Mayat fears for his family’s safety. His relative worked in a gold mine in southeastern Kaya State, where there were 11 workers. allegedly killed In a military airstrike in late March.

He said his relatives were not working that day but questioned why only the miners were targeted. “I can’t stand it. They’re innocent people in the jungle. I don’t think they even have internet, so they wouldn’t know what’s going on,” he said.

Staring at a picture of one of the victims on his phone, he said: “I am worried not only for my family but for the whole country. I am worried for everyone because they are killing the youth. Youth are the future of the future.” Myanmar, but they value them less than animals.”

For Su and Jaw, whose 7-year-old is still in Myanmar with her grandparents, wondering what her future holds, money is turned upside down in a country without remittances to bear. Almost too much.

Su said, “I am very concerned about my child as a mother. We have heard that the army is taking people from around our village for bonded labor, especially boys and men, so they are going to spend the night.” I can’t sleep peacefully.”

“I miss my baby. I can’t go back and see her because of the bad situation. I’m sad.”

Salai TB and CNN’s Kocha Olern contributed reporting.

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