Htwe Htwe Sun

Surat Thani


She didn’t have enough to eat. She didn’t earn enough money to live. Htwe Htwe Sun felt the daily struggle in her life and with nothing Myanmar could offer her anymore, she left.     

With the hope of a better life, Htwe Htwe Sun decided to migrate to Thailand. She paid an agent 18,000 baht to help her cross from Mon state in Myanmar to Ranong province, Thailand. The crossing was difficult, and part of her journey forced her to stay in a remote temple for five days to wait for the right time to safely cross the river. She was scared all the time.

With no documents to work or live legally in Thailand, she traveled undercover from Ranong to Bangkok to stay with her sister, who was in Thailand working at a seafood market. In Bangkok, she worked odd jobs just to survive and met many other undocumented migrants like herself, including her husband. Once married, they decided to return to Myanmar, as life was very difficult with no formal job or documents.

Finding it necessary to earn money for her family, Htwe Htwe Sun left Myanmar for the second time. Although she was undocumented, she found a well-paid position in Bangkok working in a shop. She was happy. However, when she became pregnant, she did not have access to medical care, and knew she needed to return home before the baby was born.

The third time Htwe Htwe Sun migrated to Thailand, she again went to make money to send back to her family.  This time, she was able to obtain the correct working documents to legally work in Thailand. Currently, she works in a palm plantation in Surat Thani with her 29-year-old brother, Pyone Mg Mg.

Pyone Mg Mg’s border crossing was just as difficult. Eight years ago, after a car dropped him off at the border area, he walked across the border and got into a car that transported him into Mae Sot, Tak province. For three nights, he traveled in this packed car with nine other migrants from Myanmar, heading down to the south of Thailand. Together they traveled by night and spent their days hiding in the forest. After living in Thailand for one year, he was able to obtain his working documents.

Htwe Htwe Sun and her brother now work as palm tree cutters, working from 8am to 5pm every day. Wages are paid per the size of palm that a person cuts and the size of the tree. For shorter trees they can receive 4-5 baht/kg and for taller trees up to 10 baht/kg. When the cutting is finished, the owner of the plantation collects the fruit and sells it at a factory. The money received is then split amongst the team. On average, they earn approximately 500 baht per day. However, since Htwe Htwe Sun and Pyone Mg Mg are paid based on the weight of the palm fruits they cut, there is no income security.

Photo by Luke Duggleby

Zin Mar Cho


Zin Mar Cho