Mary, 14, lives with her mother and sister. She goes to a Christian school in Thailand but is from an ethnic minority in neighbouring Myanmar.
“Here I only know my own family; I don’t know much about other people,” Mary says. “My older sister is studying at university in Myanmar and my brother is learning Japanese to go to Japan.”
Mary’s mother moved across the border over a decade ago, like so many others she was looking for work and safety. She came to Thailand during a difficult time: there were crackdowns on migrants, and she had to hide. The situation calmed down and Mary’s mother found work and later a school for her two youngest daughters. Mary feels safe in Thailand.
“There is nothing special about this place, it is normal,” she says. “There are happy times, there are sad times.”
Mary take part in musical training organised by one of Save the Children’s local partner organisations. Children with migrant backgrounds come together every weekend, play and socialise.
“I play the guitar. I chose the guitar myself.”
Music plays an important role in Mary’s life. She likes to play the guitar and it helps her through hard times.
“I’m happy when I play the guitar,” Mary says. “When I’m sad or something happened, I just play the guitar. Without thinking about anything else, I just focus on playing.”
Mary loves pop music and dancing. And she really wants to be a dancer. An unconventional choice, for which she is sometimes criticised in her community.
”When people say I can’t be a dancer, I say: ‘It will happen. Even though it has not yet happened, it will happen.’”
The Myanmar community in Thailand is closely knit Mary knows Thai people, but her friends all have Myanmar backgrounds.
“I have six good friends,” Mary says. “They are in my class. One of them left and she is working in Mandalay in Myanmar. We still have contact on Facebook.”
“Sometimes when there is a celebration at school, we wear identical shirts that we printed together. We wear them and take photos of all of us together. We laugh, and we are happy.”
Decades of armed conflict and economic hardship in Myanmar have forced many people to migrate to Thailand. There is a large community of people from Myanmar in the Thai border areas. Refugees and migrants often live separately from the Thai population, speak their own languages and only occasionally mingle.
“I want Myanmar people and Thai people to be treated the same,” Mary says. “Don’t look down on Myanmar people. Because Thai and Myanmar are the same, we are all human beings.”
*Name has been changed.
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