Athikhom Saengchai

Little Myanmar
Location: Bangkok
Nationality: Thai
Biography: Athikhom Saengchai is a Thai documentary photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has pursued a career in academia and international development, gaining a broad range of working experience from international affairs, political and social... MORE
Public Story
Little Myanmar
Copyright Athikhom Saengchai 2022
Date of Work Sep 2018 - Ongoing
Updated Jun 2020
Location Bangkok
Topics Bangkok, Burmese, Chinatown, Documentary, Essays, Hope, Immigration, Migrant workers, Migration, Minority, Photography, Photojournalism, Poverty, Thailand, workers, Yaowarat
On a wet narrow lane behind the bustling Yaowarat Road, the main artery of Bangkok’s Chinatown, I caught a pleasant fishy and aromatic smell that was unfamiliar for me. It was not the smell Chinese soup that I found on the way. I instinctively followed the smell and noticed a group of people gathering around a food cart and eating steaming hot noodles. They chatted with each other in a language that is not Thai. There were red spots on the ground, and the unmistakable smell of betel nuts filled the air. Then I realized who they were.

Burmese workers have been an integral part of the workforce in Thailand since the last few decades. In Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, they are like worker ants that help driving local businesses. In this photo story, I documented lives of Burmese migrant workers living in a small community amidst the labyrinth of Yaowarat. Leaving their families and friends behind, they come to Thailand with a suitcase full of hope for work and money to send home. Due to limited education background and language barriers, most of them end up doing low-skilled labor jobs, especially at Sampheng Market, a wholesale marketplace for clothes and accessories that runs from 1 – 8 a.m. Being paid a minimum wage, which is nevertheless much higher than what they earn in their home country, they have to share apartments and meals with friends from the same villages.

Obviously, it is not an easy life. But they come here with the same goals: jobs and money. They all share the same hope for a better future, not only for themselves but also their families.
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