The 60 yen “cheap lunch box” is still in the red, and we need to prepare for questions about work…Delivered to compatriots who have been forced to leave their hometowns: Tokyo Shimbun TOKYO Web

Volunteers participating in a 15 baht bento project in Mae Sotho, northwestern Thailand, on the 3rd (Photo by Taiki Fujikawa)

Mae Sotho in northwestern Thailand, which borders Myanmar, is home to many Myanmar people who fled their home country after the coup. However, there are many people who cannot find regular jobs and lead difficult lives. This summer, a local volunteer group started selling cheap boxed lunches at 15 baht (about 60 yen), less than half the market price, in an effort to help their fellow countrymen in need. (In Mesotho, Daiki Fujikawa)

◆After the civil disobedience movement, he fled to neighboring Thailand.

After the 2021 coup d’état in Myanmar, citizen protests spread across the country, leading to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), in which civil servants abandoned their duties. Some of these former civil servants and democracy activists fled to neighboring Thailand, fearing arrest by the military.

However, life in Thailand is difficult. Layton, 46, who was in charge of accounting in the military, said, “When the military killed the protesters, I took my family and fled.However, we are illegal immigrants, so we can’t get regular jobs. There is support from the established National Unity Government (NUG), but it is completely insufficient.” Other CDM participants are said to be in a similar situation.

◆Funds were raised from friends in the US and Canada.

That’s when the 15 baht bento project came up. Min Htwe Htit (40) and others who have been involved in volunteer activities in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, since the height of the coronavirus pandemic, raised funds from friends living in the United States and Canada and planned a project. It started on August 8, 1988, the day the democratic movement broke out in Myanmar.

Cheap lunch boxes for 15 baht sold by volunteer organizations (provided by Minh Thu Ethit)

Cheap lunch boxes for 15 baht sold by volunteer organizations (provided by Minh Thu Ethit)

Min Naing (52), a resident of Buffalo, New York, who supports the activity, said, “I visited Mesotho this spring and learned about the harsh living conditions of the people.In North America, all we can do is donate money.We actually made bento lunches. We are grateful to the volunteers who make the deliveries.”

Cheap lunch boxes are sold three times a week. In order to make enough for about 300 people each time, more than a dozen volunteers begin shopping and preparing food the day before. Since some of their customers are Muslims, they use halal ingredients. At 15 baht, the company is not profitable and is running a monthly deficit of 26,000 baht (approximately 100,000 yen).

Aung Tohan, a delivery worker who delivers bento boxes on his motorbike in Mae Sotho, northwestern Thailand, on the 3rd (Photo by Taiki Fujikawa)

Aung Tohan, a delivery worker who delivers bento boxes on his motorbike in Mae Sotho, northwestern Thailand, on the 3rd (Photo by Taiki Fujikawa)

Delivery is also a challenge. Peter (55), a volunteer, accepts orders through social networking sites (SNS) and travels around the area by bike or car, but says, “I get lost every time.When I give the wrong address or call, (customers) are asleep.” “They can’t connect with each other. They’re circling around the area,” he says with a laugh.

There are also concerns that he will be questioned about his duties by the Thai police. On a whiteboard hanging on the wall, there was a menu of boxed lunches such as “chicken, melon, and kamaboko” and “deep-fried fish and bean soup,” as well as instructions on what to do if you were questioned about your job.

As interest in the situation in Myanmar wanes, hidden behind Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the fighting between Israel and the Islamic group Hamas, Minh Htwe Htit said, “(The international community) is paying little attention to the Myanmar people who were forced to flee their homeland.” But I hope you will care.”



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2023-12-09 03:00:00

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