An economy with no “work”

The wide central street of the market (photo by jackol)

According to the “rules” in Thailand a camp for displaced people is temporary, and among other consequences there is no regular employment. Yet there is in this camp a thriving and large market.

The market itself is one way in which some families make money, buying in Mae Sot and selling at a markup in Mae La Camp. (Many of these traders are “Indian”, among them Muslim Karen of Indian genetic heritage whose families have traded among the Karen in Burma for generations, and who fled the Thatmadaw (army of the Myanmar government) across the border with other Karen.

Some women earn money by weaving traditional cloth, to be sold by sponsoring organisations (Karen Women’s Organisation, Kawthoulei Karen Baptist Women’s Organisation) who provided loans to enable them to get yarn and looms (microfinance) with the profit shared by the organisation and the woman.

Some men risk getting caught by the Thai authorities and leave the camp spreading deep into the surrounding jungle to collect the leaves that are used for thatching buildings. They earn about 50 bhat (NZ$2) per day of hard work. Others work inside the camp for NGOs earning (self)respect and an allowance of 400 baht per month (nursery teachers) up to 1500 baht (medics).

In this context the response of people here to Cyclone Nargis is impressive, within days more than 100,000 bhat was collected and aid sent direct to those worst affected inside Burma. This immediate collection was only the start.

No sooner given than the money was used to buy vital supplies and sent via pastors, Buddhist monks and others to one of the worst hit areas.

One more way in which, though poor in money, the Karen people are rich! (See 1 Cor 6:1-10 especially v.10)

Photo above by jackol

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