“I left him with my mother,” said the 26-year-old migrant worker from Myanmar, who lives in Thailand.
Every morning long lines of people wait for hours in front of banks and ATMs across Myanmar. Withdrawal limits were limited to around 200,000 kyat ($ 120 USD) per customer per day and some even run out of cash as people stop depositing money for security reasons.
“If I send money home, my family can usually withdraw the money the next day,” said Su. “But lately the internet has been down and it’s difficult to get the money out, and we don’t think we can trust the bank either.”
Su and her husband are among the 1.7 million Myanmar citizens who work in neighboring Thailand, according to the Migrant Workers Group, are part of an important network of foreign workers who support relatives at home. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Estimates About $ 1.4 billion was sent to Myanmar by foreign workers in 2015.
The current situation is gone Thousands of migrants live with it constant concern not only for the financial well-being of loved ones, but also for their safety. More than 860 people have been killed by security forces since the coup and more than 6,000 have been arrested, according to the AAPP.
Su’s mother tells her not to worry as the fighting in her village is not intense. “But you have to be careful,” said Su. “They no longer sleep soundly and hardly ever go out.”
But without money to stock up on food or medicine, it will not be easy to fall by the wayside in the long term.
“I want to work in Myanmar again because we have so many difficulties working in other countries and I want to live at home with my family too,” she said.
But she is afraid of what could happen if she and her husband Zaw, 30, who also works in a factory in Bangkok, return. “If we try to go back, they will arrest us even if we are not involved in politics,” she said.
Zaw speaks of the agony of watching his country rise from a distance while the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, continue their brutal crackdown on opponents of the coup. “I can’t go back and fight,” he said. “Even if I don’t mind risking my life for the next generation, I want real democracy in my country.”
Rising poverty in Myanmar
Prior to the coup, Christina’s older brother typically sent home up to $ 240 a month, which his family of 10 depended on for food and medicine. All of that stopped after the coup when the banks closed.
Christina, who uses a pseudonym for security reasons, said the family had to leave their home in Mindat city, southern Chin state, Myanmar. when the fighting started there. Now, it is not just the food they need.
“Because we’re in a place where there are no doctors and nurses, even with a headache, we have trouble buying medication because it’s been a few months,” she said.
Nor can they return home to grow new plants that they have relied on for food and for sale, so will the next few years was difficult, she said. You are currently living in a camp for internally displaced persons.
Wai, who also uses a pseudonym for security reasons, said his brother works in Thailand and sent home $ 150-180 a month to his elderly mother, who lives alone in her village. She used it as medicine when he said her health was deteriorating. Wai said his mother saved some of the remittances, but in a month her reserves would be used up.
“Since I have family, I cannot support them either. My brother can’t send money. So mom uses her savings to support herself and has to borrow from other family members in the village, ”said Wai.
“I sell groceries in the factories and we were fine before the coup. But after the coup most of the factories are closed and I couldn’t sell any more. So we fight. So I asked my brother to send me some money. He said he would do that. But since we could not receive from here, our family is also in trouble. “
A Report published The United Nations estimated in late April that by early 2022, up to half of Myanmar’s population could be living in poverty due to “aggravating negative shocks”. The report found that 83% of Myanmar households own theirs The incomes had almost halved on average because of the Covid pandemic.
This situation has worsened since the coup.
Fear for family safety
Ma Oo has lived in Thailand for 20 years, helping migrant workers obtain documents for legal work and advocating for their rights. Their children studied in Thailand and are now working in the countryside. But she is worried about the rest of her family who stayed in Shan State in Myanmar.
Her father, she said, worked as a public relations organizer for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the democratically elected party that was overthrown by the military coup. Ma Oo suspects her father was arrested, but even now, four months later, she is unsure.
“The military has arrested everyone involved with the NLD. I lost touch with my father when I heard about the coup. I worry about my entire family as we are all involved in the party. Mine Father was arrested twice in the 1990s for being involved with NLD and now we assume he was arrested again because we lost touch with him. “
Not knowing the whereabouts or well-being of family members affected by the crackdown on the military junta is traumatizing for those unable to return home.
Kyokyani, 35, works in a bakery in Bangkok. His wife works in a textile factory, but his 85-year-old mother is too frail to take part from her village in Myanmar’s Mandalay region.
Kyokyani, who also wants to be identified by name for security reasons, said his older brother was recently arrested by security forces and held for three days. “The military is putting our village under pressure because of the protests and wanted to arrest the leaders of the protests. But they couldn’t find her, so they arrested my brother, ”he said.
“I’m very sad and worried about my family,” he said, adding that most of the villagers are day laborers and struggle to make ends meet. “I can’t go back and help them and that worries me even more.”
Kyokyani said the business collapsed after Covid and he couldn’t send as much money home as he usually did. The coup made things worse and he’s been unable to send money since the military took power.
Sustaining yourself is a challenge.
“There are fewer jobs here in Thailand and I still have to spend on my accommodation and food, so I can’t make as much as I did before,” he said.
The migrant worker colleague Myat fears for the safety of his family. His relative worked at a gold mine in the southeastern state of Kayah, which employed 11 workers allegedly killed during a military air raid in late March.
He said his relative wasn’t working that day but asks why the miners were targeted in the first place. “I can’t stand it. They are innocent people from the forest. I don’t think they even have an internet, so they wouldn’t have known what was happening,” he said.
He stared at a photo of one of the victims on his cell phone and said, “I’m not just concerned about my family, but the whole country. I worry about everyone because they kill teenagers. The youth are Myanmar’s future, but they value them less than animals. “
For Su and Zaw, whose 7-year-old is still with his grandparents in Myanmar, it is almost too much to think about his future without sending money to an upside-down country.
“I am very worried about my child as a mother. We have heard that the military is putting people in our village, especially the boys and men, into slave labor so that they cannot sleep soundly at night,” said Su.
“I miss my child. I cannot go back to him because of the dire situation. I am sad.”
CNN’s Salai TZ and Kocha Olarn contributed to the coverage.