Many hellos and smiles from Mae Sot, Thailand! Spark Circus has just finished our first week in Mae Sot; performing, doing playshops, and making donations of food and toys for small migrant schools,orphanages, street child care programs, and , a dumpsite. Yes, really, a garbage dumpsite. Never did i think i would be bringing a wild happy crew of circus performers to do a show and workshops on a garbage dump in Northern Thailand, but here we are,and it was one of our many magical days.
It was a good feeling arriving back . I love this city, because for me, it keeps me feeling incredibly motivated, and inspired. I always meet the most incredible people here, volunteering their time, giving their hearts and minds to solving some really complex socio-economic problems, often from the ground up. Its not the least bit abstract, you can see the results. What do I mean by socio- economic problems? Poverty, child labour, war injuries and trauma, lack of education, lack of medical care, lack of identity papers.
Mae Sot is full of refugees of one sort or another. The ones who get in legally are called “migrants” and are often used as the lowest of the low cheap labour forces. They come here to escape desperate circumstances. I see the conditions they live in here, and wonder how it is even possible to have conditions more desperate? How bad do things have to be to make a garbage dump look like a reasonable home?!! Seriously, over three hundred people, mostly young kids, are living on the dumpsite, scavenging a living. They work all day in the putrid mess to make may be 50 bt from collecting plastic bottles for recycling, ( on the positive side, go recycling!) Then there are the people living on the street, some of them economic refugees, having came to Thailand from villages in Burma that were essentially starving, Here, they can at least get a little bt each day, hopefully. In addition to this you have the political refugees, those who have fled the oppressive illegal military regime of Burma. A government that practices all sorts of illegal warfare and economic manipulation… mining the path to the nearest village market, raping women to generate terror and despair, using children as labour for the military- it is horrific . Those that object, or strive for democracy, are often jailed. Some manage to come here, to continue fighting socially and politically for the freedom and safety of their people. Many of the oppressed Burmese are the various ethnic hill tribes. Some consider the actions of the Burmese govt genocide– whole cultures are being systemically destroyed. Over the course of the month we play and teach and perform for refugees from at least five different tribes, as well as lots of the local Thai population!
As i said, the refugees that are making a go of it , usually in secret, outside of the camps are called migrants. Some small percentage are legally permitted here, for cheap labour, but most are not. Migrants sometimes find themselves trapped in the border sectors, because there are identity checks on all of the roads into town. They will be arrested and deported without papers. Problem is, children born to these migrants, have no identity at all. They are not Thai, and not recognized in Burma. They have no protection from any nation, no support, no freedom of possibility .Imagine that: born, belonging no where.Makes you appreciate your country and your passport a little bit more, doesn’t it?