San Naing

Chiang Rai


For 20 years, San Naing has lived in Chiang Rai, Thailand, far away from his home in Kengtung, Myanmar. He works as a night shift security guard in a restaurant, providing for his wife and their three children.

“My father was a soldier in Yangon, but I never wanted to be a soldier. When I was young my brother came to work in Thailand, and he disappeared. My mother was very heartbroken, and she never wanted me to come to Thailand, ” San Naing recalls.

“ When I grew up, I worked as a lorry driver at the border towns of Myanmar between Taunggyi and Tachieliek. My relative in Chiang Rai persuaded me to work in Thailand where I could get more pay. So, I decided to come and work in a noodle shop for one year.”

Later, San Naing eventually became a night shift security guard in a restaurant. “I have three children, and most of the income pays for their school fees. My oldest child, a 21-year-old daughter, now studies in the university, while my second son is now in grade 4, and the youngest son is 4 years old.”                           

In his free time, he dedicates himself to providing language and legal support to the migrant community in Chiang Rai.

“Most of our community members are Burmese and Shan, working in construction sites and as general laborers. During my lunch period I assist other migrant workers in solving personal conflicts and provide language and legal support free of charge,” San Naing explains.

His friends say he is “free of charge, and full of heart.”

In 2018, the Mekong Minority Foundation suggested to San Naing that he should attend The Freedom Story (TFS) workshops on labor rights, human trafficking, and other relevant laws and regulations.      After receiving training from TFS, an organization supported by the USAID Thailand Counter Trafficking in Persons project, San Naing decided to help others more.     

Since then, he has never looked back.

“I became a volunteer because I felt truly delighted when I helped others.” San Naing exclaimed.

“The people with language barriers were very pitiful, they couldn’t go anywhere, they were submissive, and anyone could force them to do anything because they didn’t know how to protect themselves. Therefore, whenever I could help, I did. I used my motorcycle, filled my own fuel, and never charged anyone at all.” 

Migrant workers in San Naing’s community know they can be at risk of exploited promised wages and reasonable working conditions. Now, when this happens, community members are aware of their rights and entitlements. Working together, they help raise awareness about labor rights and provide information about services for those in need of legal assistance.

Today, San Naing’s training and experience enable him to actively help members of his community claim compensation or put forward cases at the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare. He now understands the legal terms and Thai laws, and knows how he can help others.

Photo by Suthep Kritsanavarin

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