Tsunami Still Haunts Burmese Migrants

Hundreds of Burmese tsunami survivors—who are still migrant workers in Thailand, four years after almost losing their lives—are still fearful of another killer wave, according to NGO staff in the Phang Nga district of southern Thailand.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Htoo Chit, Excutive Director of Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development Committee (Burma), said, “Survivors are still afraid that another tsunami is imminent. A guy called me one time at 2 a.m. for help.

He and his colleagues had climbed to higher ground above a rubber plantation convinced that a tsunami was coming.”

According to Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development Committee (Burma), there are about 10,000 Burmese workers currently working in Phang Nga—mainly on construction sites, fishing boats and rubber plantations.

Authorities in the Phuket area have set up a tsunami warning system, which can be broadcast in different languages. However, there is no Burmese-language warning.

Some Burmese workers, not understanding an announcement, have been known to run for cover, he said.

The deputy director of the Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development Committee (Burma), Po Po, said that in February she had to drive out and pick up Burmese migrants who had fled to a mountain three kilometers away out of fear of an impending disaster.

“Even four years after the event, some people still cannot talk about the tsunami,” she said. “They just break down in tears.”

Tsunami survivor Achai, 30, a migrant Burmese who today works on a construction site earning 203 baht (US $5.60) per day, said, “I lost ten friends in the tsunami.

“I was by the beach on a construction site. Suddenly, I saw a huge wave coming. I ran into the building. I escaped by about two seconds. My other 10 friends got taken by the wave.”

Lyi Mong, a tsunami survivor from Mudon in Mon State, said that Burmese victims didn’t get any assistance from the Thai government. “Only Thai people got financial aid,” she said. “Some got new houses and have come out of it even better than before the tsunami.”

The 26 December 2004 tsunami is described as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of mankind. It killed an estimated 280,000 people.

In Thailand, the official number of people killed or missing stands at 8,212. Some 388 bodies remain unidentified, many of whom could well be Burmese, say Thai officials.

By LAWI WENG Thursday, December 25, 2008

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