My Mon friend, RE, is finally free to go to Norway to join her daughter. And this must be the best ever new year she will be celebrating, in Oslo.
I first met RE in a guest house in SangkhlaBuri (in KanchanaBuri province bordering Burma) 2 years ago. RE, a Mon refugee, was the manager of the guesthouse. After many days of traveling in Thailand without able to speak to someone in English, I was surprised to note that RE has a good command of English. I was pleased that she could share with me about the going-on in Myanmar while I spoke about Malaysia and Singapore. Burma got independence from the British in 1948 with many racial issues unresolved. (On a side note, 1948 seems to be a not-so-auspicious year. Another example is the partitioning of Palestine which is still a big political problem to solve). RE resembled my late mother in look and character. Both are of small built but with strong determination and courage.
RE has a daughter, MI, who was about 20 years old then. Her father is an Indian Muslim and so is she. MI also spoke good English and has been attending some courses to prepare her for migration. I later found out the MI was RE’s adopted child.
As refugees, life is tough and I felt sorry for both of them. Malaysian got independent from British in 1957 but since then we have been lucky to have progressed rapidly in terms of economy with little natural or man-made disasters. I can’t image what my life will be had I been born in Burma. But like the Thais, the Mon wears their smiles despite of difficulties. What RE has was her daughter, an aged mother, a few old and worn-out English books and some good volunteer farang friends. On my return to Kuala Lumpur, I subscribed a year of Readers Digest from BKK for her to keep her abreast of the outside world.
We kept in touch with emails and telephone calls. Once she told me that a refugee family needed some financial help because the sole bread winner fell off from motorcycle and was hospitalized for months. I sent 2000 bahts into her account.
MI finally got accepted to Norway 1 year ago. A farang friend who worked for NGO in BKK came to Kuala Lumpur and I passed 100 Euros for MI. RE was upset that I gave MI money when she found out later. 100 Euros got MI a mobile phone to call the mother, I was told in email.
Early this year moved to BKK to work in a Language school. But she has to enter Thailand officially and legally to apply for the work permit. A passport was made and RE has to travel to ChiangMai to have her passport stamped in CNX airport. The plan is that if she works in BKK, she has to leave Thailand once every 3 months. I have offered my house in KUL or my daughter house in Singapore as her temporary refuge if there is a need. I met RE again in June 05 when I dropped by her office in Sukhumvit area.
In August 05, we got news that she was arrested in ChiangMai. Her email was not replied and mobile phone not answered. Emails among her cycle of friends were flying around from UK, Europe and Asia looking and asking about her whereabouts. After a few weeks, we found out she was safe. I was really worried as one of her sibling is wanted by the regime in Yangon.
Her friends in volunteer organization operating in Thai Burma border have all the while trying to get her into Norway or UK. Last month, she was finally offered a 3-month Visa to visit her daughter in Norway.
We spoke on the phone before she left and I could hear her tears as we spoke. I got an email last week from MI that she and the mother has been united in Oslo. They are finally FREE. Although it is unlikely that I will ever see RE again but I am happy not being able to see her, in sorrow.