Naw Lah Paw : No one left behind
In 2006, Naw Lah Paw (not her real name), her husband and three children left their village, hid in the forest, walked along the rivers, passing one village after another. It took them one month to reach a camp in Thailand. This is where she hopes to have a safe life and for her children to go to school without running away from soldiers.
Living in the camp gives her a reasonable life. During the rainy season, she plants some vegetables to feed her three children; 17, 13 and 8 years old. All of her children go to school. Since living here, Naw Lah Paw has seen many refugees depart for resettlement in a third country. However she has never contemplated going to another country.
Is Naw Lah Paw satisfied with life in refugee camp? Does she not want to start a new life? Is there any other reason she has that no one knows?
In her 56 years old, Naw Lah Paw dreams of a better life like other people. She wants her children to have higher education, good jobs and a safe and secure life. But she is not ready to leave the camp because she is waiting to be reunited with her sister who is still living with difficulty in Myanmar.
“Over there the soldiers are so brutal. They arrested my older brother and beat him until blood was coming out of his mouth. He eventually passed away. Same thing happened to my younger brother. He hid in the jungle. When the soldiers caught him, they beat him to death. My other brother survived and escaped to this camp recently.”
“My brother told me they tied his hands and feet. They hit him all the time. He was a porter. When there was a chance, he fled here. He lost a lot of weight.” Naw Lah Paw said, her words a torrent of emotion. Her parents passed away because they could not bear the death of their two sons.
Naw Lah Paw has four siblings; all are boys except her eldest sister. Naw Lah Paw and her sister have a strong bond and love each other very much. Her sister still lives with hardship in the village in Myanmar. She wants to leave but the journey is too tough for her. Her sister always sends messages through new asylum seekers that she misses Naw Lah Paw as always. She longs for the day they will live together again as siblings. If Myanmar is safe, she wants her siblings to live happily like they did when they were young.
“If the situation on that side is normal, I won’t go back right away. I will wait to be sure that the situation is really calm. If that happens and Myanmar has democracy, I want to go back to see my sister…when I think of my sister, I can’t stop the tears from falling.”
When asked if she does not want a better future for her children, Naw Lah Paw replied that if her children are grown ups and want to resettle in third countries, she will allow them to go. As for her, she will not go any where. She longs for the day to reunite with her sister and live happily again, as she has recently done with her brother after he escaped.
“If my sister heard that I want to go abroad, she will feel down and cry all the time. I decided not to go anywhere until I see my sister again. After that, I might decide to join my children living in another country.”
By Sakunee Nattapoolwat
Edited by Douglas Clapperton, UNHCR Thailand’ Supporter