Karen women accuse Thai workers of wooing them into false marriages

Karen villagers alleged Thai company workers of exploiting and marrying local women while they are employed in construction work in southern Burma.

A village elder said villagers are outraged at recent false marriages involving three Karen women in Kaw Htee Lor (Tha Byu Chaung) village, east of Tavoy. Villagers say the three women were dumped by the Italian-Thai Development Company workers stationed in their village and employed on the construction of the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi Road.

The Karen village elder who declined to be named said.

“They have degraded our people’s dignity and they [Thai workers] see our people as cheap. Villagers elders are really ashamed and angry about what has happened.”

The elder fears Karen culture and moral tradition is at risk.

“It never happened until the Thai company came to our village. This is just the beginning and if the company and other businesses come in here, it will only get worse. We are really worried that our moral tradition and culture will be fully exploited in the future.”

The elder said traditional living married Karen men who have a family are forbidden to have affairs with another woman, and then dumping them is not appropriate – it is seen as bad morale and irresponsible.

The village elder said the Thai men are believed to be married with families back in Thailand. After the men returned to Thailand the women could not make contact as the men ‘just disappeared’.

The village elder said.
“Now our village has a problem because of these Thai workers. We have brought the issue to the village council and to the women’s affairs group. It is very difficult to solve this problem, as the Thai workers are not Burmese citizens. It is also created a bad image for our village and Karen culture.”

The elder said the women had little knowledge of the outside world and were taken advantage of because of their poverty.

“The women married the Thais, I think because of the poverty in the village, they only wanted to have better life, but they got nothing.”

The village elder said the three women were working as cooks in the company camp kitchens.

“They was one young girl, the other two women were aged between 30 to 40 – one a window and the other had husband and children, but left him to go with the Thai worker. The women who have children got pregnant with the Thai worker.

Villagers say the Italian-Thai Development Company set up their workers camp in Kaw Htee Lor village for road construction in September 2010.

The Italian-Thai Development Company is building a 160-kilometer superhighway linking southern Burma’s Tavoy to the Thai border in Kanchanaburi province.

The Tavoy-Kanchanaburi highway is par of the Tavoy Special Economic Zone, estimated to be worth more than US$60 billion which The Italian-Thai Development Company was awarded a 60-year contract by Burma’s previous military regime.

Kaw Tee Lor village is one of the five Karen villages in the east of Tavoy that the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi construction affects.

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