Ma Lo

“The last time we ran away the men from the villager came back from the battle and told us to run away from our home”

My name is Ma Lo. Kayan people don’t have surnames; people just call us by our given name. I am 24 years old. This is the story of my life so far.

I come from Burma, but I live in Thailand now. I came to Thailand when I was six years old. I came to Thailand because of the political situation in Karenni State.

I was born in Burma on March 26th 1983. I am Kayan. The Kayan are one of the ethnic groups in Karenni State.  The Burmese government persecute the ethnic groups. When I was five year old my parents and brothers left Burma because of the fighting in the village. Before they left they learnt about the situation on the border from some other people who left ahead and they heard conditions there were better than staying in their old home, so they decided to leave. Before they left my parents took me to stay with my aunty in Rwan Khu village because they already had four children to carry on the difficult journey and they told me that they will come back to collect me if the conditions were good. The next morning they left for the settlement on the border, which was in an area protected by the Karenni army.

Kayan girls washing

My childhood in Burma

When I was staying with my aunt I had only two shirts and two skirts. I had to work hard everyday. In the morning at five o'clock I had to wake up to cook breakfast. After breakfast we had to go to work on the farm. Before I went to the farm I always picked up my small basket and a small chopping hoe to take to the farm. I didn't have money to buy the things that I needed. I didn't have washing powder, soap and shoes. I didn't use to wear shoes and clean my teeth when I was a child.

One day during April we celebrated our traditional Kan Kwan festival. The celebration ground was very close to my home so I wanted to join the celebration very much. So I ask permission to my aunty, but she didn't allow me to join the celebration. When my aunty didn’t allow me to join I was so angry and cried all night. The aunt I stayed with had one daughter and one son. They are my cousins. Her husband was killed by the Burmese military. That May every family had to provide one porter to the army or pay money instead. My aunty wanted to pay, but she didn't have enough money to pay so my 15 year old cousin had to go to be an army porter. At that time I was so worried about him. He had to go along with the army for two weeks. When he came back he was very tired and pale.    

After a year my father suddenly came back from the refugee camp to take me along to join them. When I saw my father I was so happy to meet him. Then he hugged me and gave me some money to buy some things. At the time my aunty asked me to cook dinner for my father. I at once got up and cooked for my father. He stayed with my aunty for only two days, then he took me to the border camp near Thailand. We had to take seven days to reach the camp. When our group was on the way we had many difficulties .We had to eat poor food with salt and chilies only. One day on the way the man who went ahead met the Burma army and he made us stop and we hid under the tree in the bush for about two hours until the army passed. After that we had to start again on our long journey. It was night time when we arrived at the camp and met my family. I was so happy to see them. When they saw me they were also happy too. At that time I had two elder brothers and two younger brothers and my mother was pregnant again. The next morning they took me shopping in the village. This was the first time I went shopping.

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