Ma Phew

Surat Thani


Ma Phew is a 41-year-old female Burmese migrant worker who left her hometown of Dawei, Myanmar 13 years ago with her husband, for Thailand. Today, she works at a fisherman pier (U-sa pier) and lives in Don Sak district in Surat Thani province.

“When in Myanmar, I was a housewife. My husband, Kyaw Su Ngu, was a fisherman, and his income was not enough for the whole family, so we made a decision to move to Thailand.”

When they first arrived in Thailand, they lived in Ranong province. After five years, they moved to Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province which is the biggest fish market in Thailand. Here they stayed for three years working in a seafood processing factory. However, the working conditions and pressure at work were too much for her so they decided to move to Donsak district in Surat Thani province where they remain to this day.

Ma Phew has two children, an 18-year-old son who grew up in Myanmar with her mother, and a 5-year-old daughter currently living with her in Surat Thani. Now, Ma Phew works at the U-sa pier fish market with other migrants, sorting and weighing the fish from the boats before they are transported to market. Usually, it takes them from 7 a.m. to 12.00 p.m. to complete this job although it can take up to 3 in the afternoon if there are more boats containing more fish to sort and weigh.

“It was not that heavy, my job, sometimes, even no job at all, but I still received money from the employer, altogether THB 8,000 (USD 254) per month. My husband worked as a head of fishing workers on a fishing boat ”, Ma Phew added.

Ma Phew and her Burmese friends are members of the 1,000 strong migrant worker community living in Surat Thani. One day they were invited by the Raks Thai Foundation to attend training sessions and conferences on various topics such as healthcare services, labor rights, social security, and human trafficking. The Raks Thai Foundation is one of USAID Thailand Counter Trafficking in Persons project partners.

Through this training, inspiration and knowledge led to empowerment.

Ma Phew was inspired by these sessions and felt she wanted other migrant workers to benefit from what she learned. She began talking to members of her community about migrant rights, and soon Raks Thai Foundation heard about her desire to help. In October 2019, Raks Thai invited her to join them as a volunteer.

“My dream is to see every struggling worker being helped. I do not have money, but at least I can help encourage them to move on, and I am able to share useful information with them so they can fulfill their dreams.”

Photo by Suthep Kritsanavarin

Kying Win


Kying Win