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On the border we did not mark (2003) Back to stories index

I was born to my karen parents in a small village pleople said was located inside Myanmar. As a hilltribe we did not have a permanent place to live. We did move from place to place in the mountains. However I was lucky to have a chance to stay with my relatives in a small town where I studied until 9th grade.

At 18, my parents called me back to where they had been building a village. That was on the Thai Myanmar border. On the eastern side was Umphang district of Thailand. In the Myanmar side was just forest land where I got a job in a Thai logging company. We did not know exactly where we were whether inside Thailand or within Myanmar. After all border lines were never done by any one of us.

Am I included in this world? The job was moving cut logs using elephants into Thai soil. We worked in a team and the job consisted of everything. It looked like a small company that must be self sufficient. We built temporary shelters for ourselves. We found food and water. We repaired our tools. We did carpentry, chain works, rope works, elephant works, cutting jobs, cooking, cleaning, and so on. Around 1990 the job was no longer available for the reasons only the god knew. I moved to Umphang town to find job.

Luck was with me again. Tour operators were looking for the guides who knew the area well. The famous spot was Ti Lo Su waterfall just discovered by the busineses. Ti Lo Su waterfall was in the past our temporary rest place in the southern Daw Na mountain range. It became a good source for money. Hundreds of tourists came in rafts, noisy four wheel drive trucks and a few on foot. I was a rafting and trekking guide. Since I spoke Karen, Thai, and Myanmar like natives as well as some broken English I was instantly qualified for the job.

However I was doing quite good contributing the economy of Umphang, I felt something was wrong with me. Even though I spoke Thai language the same as other Thais I was many times detained for having been working what they called "illegally". They said it was Thailand and not my country. Every time I was arrested my boss showed up and within 20 minutes I was freed again.

My existance was later restricted to only Umphang and the Umphang wildlife sanctuary where there were many Karen villages where I had my friends and relatives. In 2000 when I went into Myanmar side to visit my illing mother I was surprised that the other side did not want me too! I did not have my Myanmar ID card for a long time since I lost it while I was in the logging farm. I was applying for a new one. But with the help of my villiagers I was allowed to live with my mother. A year later, after my mother's funeral, I moved into Thailand again.

Now I am living with my Karen wife who has a kind of Thai ID card that allows her to live in Thailand. In a few months we are going to have our first child. I start to think about things that I could not find answers. The future of our life and our child's life.

We all believe that we live in our land that is part of the world and that was not designed and built by mankind. We do not consider it is inside this or that country. For us both sides of the so-called border are basically the same; the lands of similar geography, people who look the same and the languages we know. For more than 10 years I have been guiding many tourists of many nationalities all of them come here freely. But why I have not been treated like any other people? Will they treat my son same way I am?

(Note: the same story was published in www.trekthailand.net in Dec 2003.)


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