The influx of Burmese migrant workers into Thailand began in the early 1990’s due to a lack of work and government sanctions on employment opportunities. With cross border travelling made difficult for Burmese citizens, the struggle of a legal existence outside Myanmar is close to impossible for the ‘average citizen.’ The result of such inhibitions has given rise to a population of ‘illegal migrant workers’ in Thailand. The burdens endured by Burmese migrant workers have become inflicted onto their children and grandchildren. Most are born in Thailand, have Thai names, speak the language and feel almost as Thai as any other Thai citizen would. However, the ongoing discrimination from Thais and the constant game of hide and seek Burmese children have to play with police from a young age creates much anxiety, distress and questions concerning identity. The young are often a disregarded group, forgetting this valuable stage of life, both mentally and physically. What will come of the children of migrant workers? Have they too become classified as ‘illegal migrant workers,’ like their parents? Will the money they help their parents save to build their dream home in Myanmar be enough to override their nationality crisis?
Cattleya Jaruthavee is a British/Thai photographer and writer based in Bangkok. Her work focuses on socio-economic/political disparities occurring in the world. Cattleya graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of Bristol and a Master of Arts in Photojournalism from the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom. Cattleya’s work has been exhibited in London, Bangkok, Yangon and Phnom Penh. Her recently published book, Unstable Grounds: Burmese Migrant Children in Thailand, examines the place of Burmese migrant children in Thailand’s bureaucratic structure. As well as having several ongoing photographic projects, she is also an activist.