Race and social differences are on top of my mind, since I read the book Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, so I may be a bit over sensitive. On the other hand, inequality is everywhere, and it is impossible not to notice the difference in rank between the Thai and Myanmarese staff in the resort where we are currently residing. The Thai female owner is by far on top of the hierarchy, commanding her orders to the Thai girls behind the reception from her heavy wooden chair, while another girl is braiding her hair. Big sunglasses hiding her eyes. The Thai receptionists, who out of language frustration and the suppressive eye of the owner run away as soon as a tourist asks a slightly more complicated question, are second. After this there is a big vacuum and then, at the bottom of the ladder, are the Myanmar guys working in the kitchen and restaurant.
The Burmese economy is light years behind the Thai. Despite that Myanmar is now one of the fastest growing economies in the ASEAN region, this development has not yet trickled down to the majority of its population and it will take at least two generations before they can catch up with their neighbors. The current young adults have to migrate elsewhere for making some money, such as to the Thai tourist industry.
The Myanmar youngsters in the resort make a depressed impression. Working long hours. When we say the few Thai words we still know from our time in Laos (Laotian is very similar to the Thai language), they respond with ‘I don’t speak Thai, I am from Myanmar’. We tell them we are moving to their country and a smile breaks through their faces. They open up and tell us about the wonderful places we need to visit: Mandalay, Bagan, Yangon, Inle lake. We can’t wait and, and as we don’t know what else to do, leave some extra money on the table.
The guy in the picture is not working for our resort but for the neighboring one where the atmosphere felt much better. Here the staff was playing volleyball and football with the kids on the beach after sunset every night. Hopefully they are treated better too.