UNSEEN MAE LA An innovative arts project for Karen refugees from Burma to describe their lives through photography.
I am a refugee from Burma. Before I fled to Thailand, I lived with my mother and sister in a small village nestled in the hills of Karen State. Karen State is located in Southeast Burma and is the homeland of our ethnic Karen people. I lived there peacefully throughout my childhood. When I was 14 my father died from diseased water. His stomach grew very big while the rest of his body became small. The government hospital was too far away and too expensive. In Burma, only the rich have access to health care.
I’ve lived in Thailand since 2000. I am happy here because there is electricity, clean water, latrines, and health care. Here I do not have to worry about forced labor. However I also miss home. I miss fresh natural vegetables. I miss the shade of our beautiful trees and the cool springs of Karen State. Most of all I miss my mother and sister.
I have only been able to return to visit my family once. It’s a dangerous journey and I could not stay for long. They work hard growing food in the communal fields and selling it in the markets. There is no school, so my sister has no opportunity for an education. Still, it was wonderful to see them. Wonderful to hear them say my name Naw K’Neh Mei, which mean “Wild Bee”.