By Htay Win
Theingi said to Win Maung on the phone last night, “I love you very much my darling! You are everything to me. I worry you don’t love me as I love you.”
He replied, “How will I prove my love to you? If I had wings, I would immediately fly to you. I love you more than I can say! My dearest, I will try my best so we can live together in the future. Believe me!” Having talked to his sweetheart on the phone at nighttime, Win Maung was enraptured and felt like he was on cloud nine.
He was a fisherman who was fishing on a boat at Paknam village, Chumphon township, southern Thailand. He was about twenty years old. He came from Kyauk Pyu township, Arakan state, Myanmar. Like him, there were so many migrant workers were working in Thailand. His beloved also was from the same region in Myanmar, but they had never met each other in person. She was working in a shrimp factory, in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon township, Thailand. They had connected and fallen in love talking on the phone only. Her name was Theingi. She was nineteen years old.
Because they were so young couple, even though they hadn’t seen each other’s faces, they were madly in love. They wanted to hear their lovers’ sweet voice forever. At that time, although social media was accessible to other people, Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand couldn’t use it well. Fortunately, DTAC, one of the biggest telecom companies in Thailand, offered a package that allowed free calls from 11. 00 p.m. to 05.00 a.m. enabling them to talk lovingly for hours every night.
To put his beloved’s mind at ease and reassure her of his love, he thought about marrying her. Despite their desire to live together as a couple, they could not do so immediately.
It was not easy for them since they didn’t have passports. Most of the migrant workers were illegal workers, so if they wanted to do something like change jobs or cities, they had to rely on the brokers. They couldn’t do anything without the brokers’ help. To bring his beloved from Mahachai to Chumphon, he saved money to pay for the broker’s fees.
When he had enough money, he asked the broker to bring his beloved over. Living together was like being in seventh heaven. Wasn’t this their goal? They felt as if they were floating on air. After he married his beloved, he didn’t fish for a month.
They lived with his sister in a room that she shared with her husband. His sister and brother-in-law were about twenty-five years old. So, there were four people or two couples in the room. It was a very small and narrow room. Because they were poor, they couldn’t afford to rent a good room. They all slept in the same room, closely packed together.
His sister’s name was Kyi Kyi and his brother-in-law’s name was Kyaw Tun. They were working in a fish factory. They both loved the younger couple and helped them as much as possible. So, the four of them lived together happily. The older couple took special care of Theingi as she had come to them in an unusual and adventurous way. She also loved and relied on them. They deeply indulged her, too.
After one month, Win Maung had to go to fish at sea. He left his lovely wife in his sister’s room. While she was living her sister-in-law’s room, some of the neighbors started gossiping about her and said that she was guilty of adultery with her sister-in-law’s husband. Because of her neighbors’ frivolous talks, she was not happy to live in the room.
Unfortunately, something happened that changed their lives. Kyi Kyi and Kyaw Tun’s work time changed. Kyi Kyi had to work the night shift and her husband worked at the day shift. Actually, it was not unusual for the workers of this factory, but for them, this was surely the source of gossip. People criticized them because they slept in the small room when her sister-in-law was away at the factory. Win Maung also heard the gossips from the sea. He worried and was furious. So, he angrily asked his wife,
“How come I heard you and my brother-in-law are a guilty of adultery right now? You’re having an affair, aren’t you? Is it right? Tell me? I can’t feel the distress. If you really do this, I will kill you both.”
She replied, “Oh, my darling, I love you only and you are the only one my dearest husband. If you don’t believe me, I will take an oath in front of the lord Buddha that I am not an adulteress.”
When she cried and swore to him, she was in great sorrow. She continued to tell him,
“Where will I live if I don’t sleep in this room? Where do I live without you when you haven’t rented a room for me? The reason for the gossips is that we don’t have our own room. If you don’t want to hear the gossips, you must rent a room quickly.”
He agreed with his wife, “Yes, you are right, my darling. I will rent a room for us as soon as I come to the land.”
Win Maung consulted his sister about renting a room for them because of the gossips. Their neighbors’ talks had affected them and left them all with the bad feelings. His sister also accepted her younger brother’s request. She quickly rented a room for them.
Although Theingi denied the accusations and swore undying love to her husband, she and Kyaw Tun did indeed carry on an affair secretly. They continued sleeping together in Kyaw Tun’s old room when Kyi Kyi was away.
Because Win Maung was a fisherman, he could live on the land for five days per month, he was at the sea over twenty days of a month. So, he phoned her every night.
His sister and his brother-in-law also rotated day shift and night shift monthly. Whenever Kyaw Tun worked day shift, he used to come and sleep with Theingi at night for he was also obsessed with her. One night, while Win Maung and Theingi were talking on the phone, Kyaw Tun arrived at Thingi’s place drunk. He knocked on the door loudly and he called her,
“Nock- Nock- Nock! Hey, Theingi, my sweetie. Open the door!” The knock on the door shocked thingi, and at the same time, Win Maung also heard the voice on the phone clearly. He asked her.
“Who is he? Who is calling you now and knocking on the door?”
She didn’t answer. He asked her again.
“I am asking you. Who is he? Why does he knock on my door and call your name and say my sweetie? Answer me.”
He was furious and shouted at her angrily. She found herself in a difficult situation and didn’t know how to reply. She couldn’t think of a good lie immediately. While she was in that tight spot, Kyaw Tun knocked on the door again and again and called her name loudly. So, Win Maung recognized his brother-in-law’s voice. He cried,
“Is that he, my brother-in-law? Why does he come to you in this time? Is it at night? Do you commit adultery with him? Are you sleeping with him? Is what the neighbors told me before true? You are an unfaithful woman! The guy is also a bad cad.I will kill you both!”
She had no idea what to say to her husband. So, she confessed and replied, “Yes.”
As soon as he got the answer from her, he phoned his sister, Kyi Kyi, and talked about the betrayal of her husband and his wife. When she heard about the incident, she didn’t restrain her anger and she came back to her room. When she met him, she scolded him rudely, she cursed and insulted him badly. Next day, she went to file a complaint against him.
The police came to Kyaw Than Maung, a Myanmar community leader of Parkanm, and consulted him how to solve this case. So, they called Kyaw Tun, Kyi Kyi and Thingi to Myanmar community office. When they arrived at the office, the police questioned him and Theingi too. The police interrogated them and asked for details because he thought this was a rape case. When they were interrogated, Kyaw Than Maung interpreted for them. The police asked her,
“When you had sex, who took off your pans and underwear? Did Kyaw Tun take them off?
She answered, “No. He didn’t. I did. I took them off by myself.”
The police told her, “If so, this is not a rape case because you willingly accepted this intercourse.”
And then he told Kyaw Than Maung,” So, Kyaw Than Maung, please make a verdict for their problem and resolve it according to your traditional judgement.”
He replied to the police, “Thank you sir. Well, as you know our situation, sometimes things that we don’t want to happen because we are poor and uneducated.”
The police answered to him, “I see. Several people from Myanmar come to Thailand to work because they need the money. I understand about them. They have no chance to choose what jobs they want to do. This problem arose because they were thrown together in a small space and could not afford to rent their own room.
He replied to the police, “You’re right, sir. Though he married his girlfriend, he couldn’t rent a room for them. This is the main reason that this situation happened. As you know, the room they are living is very narrow. Because a young man and a young girl are sleeping together in a small narrow room, I understand the problem that had occurred. If he had rented a room for her before, their own room, we wouldn’t have had to solve a case like this.”
There are many thousand Myanmar migrant workers are working in Thailand. Some of them are in the factories, in the fishing boats, plantations, households as maids, in restaurants etc. Because they are living under military government, their lives are poorer and poorer, so they don’t have good education and they don’t have a good chance to do business. For this reason, some of them are lack of ethic and character.
The police handed over the case to Kyaw Than Maung to solve this case, who started to tell them,
“Firstly, I would like to tell you that we should appreciate the police. Because they handed this case to me, Kyaw Tun is not arrested and sent to jail. If he didn’t release you, surely you will be arrested and imprisoned in jail. Now, what I’d like to tell you is you all need to think about not destroying your family lives. As the police told us, why we faced this case is we are poor and lack education, ethics, and character.”
While he was persuading them, Kyi Kyi interrupted him,
“May I say something Kyaw Than Maung? I totally don’t accept this behavior what my husband committed adultery with my younger brother’s wife. This shows his bad character. So, I’d like him to take action.”
She was totally disillusioned with her husband. Kyaw Than Maung tried to convince them again not to make their situation worse.
“Well, Kyi Kyi, I understand that you are unsatisfied with your husband; however, I am the head of this community, I must solve the problems as much as I can. I must try to make a big case smaller. It is my duty. You must listen my address here carefully. Do you all understand what I mean?”
Kyaw Tun and Theingi nodded their heads, but Kyi Kyi looked like she didn’t agree. Although she did not retort anything, her face showed her discontent.
Kyaw Than Maung continued his speech to them,
“Actually, Theingi is an adventurous girl who came and married her boyfriend, this means she loves her man very much. She didn’t know about him well before. They had only connection on the phone. As everybody knows, when a woman loves her man, she dares to confront everything without being afraid of anything and she will not think about the difficulties that she has to face because of the power of love. Theingi is also like a servant of love. Unfortunately, this case happened in your lives. Normally, people will not accept such unfaithfulness, but we must think deeply on it. Can you destroy your family lives for a mistake?”
Kyi Kyi urgently replied, “I can. I want to divorce him. I don’t want to live with him anymore. This is my firm decision.”
Kyaw Tun said, “I apologize to all. I confess my mistake and I admit my error. I promise I will not be guilty of such behavior again. Please forgive me Kyi Kyi.”
Theingi said, “I’m also a person who was wrong in this case, so please understand my situation and forgive me with kindness. I also promise not to do wrong like this in the future. If my family is destroyed, how will I live?”
Kyaw Than Maung told them,
“As I am the head of community, I just persuade you to live peacefully in your families, but because I am not a powerful authority, I cannot order you to obey my decision. Now, as much as I know your desire, Kyi Kyi has decided to divorce Kyaw Tun although her husband wants to live with her. Theingi doesn’t want to destroy her family. So, Theingi you must ask your husband and then tell me. After you have your answers, come to me again. I will give you my verdict when you come to me next time.”
Kyaw Than Maung had experienced many problems of Myanmar migrant workers in his community. He knew well that they make decisions in anger when they faced problems for they were easily infuriated and when their anger cooled, they could forgive mistakes what happened.
Two weeks later, Win Maung and Theingi came to Kyaw Than Maung, but Kyaw Tun and Kyi Kyi didn’t come.
Kyaw Than Maung asked them, “How about you? What did you decide to do. Tell me.”
They looked at each other without answering immediately. He understood that they didn’t want to break up. He asked them again, “Tell your decision to me. What verdict should I give you?”
Win Maung answered, “We will continue to live together because we cannot live apart, and we still love each other very much.”
He asked Theingi, “I want to know your desire. Tell me.”
Theingi replied nodding her head,
“As my husband said to you, we cannot separate and if I divorce him, I will die or I don’t know how I will live in the world.”
When he got answers from them, he nodded slowly and smiled, and he admonished them kindly. ‘Well, have you heard a proverb that No one is perfect? We all have sinned in our lives at least one time because we are human beings. After we know that is not a good deed, we must try to avoid it and not let it happen again. A person who lives like this we can call him wise. The world eventually improves to overcome the wrong deeds. Now, although you both are so young, you have serious experience. If Win Maung doesn’t have pure real love for you, you will surely be divorced now, wouldn’t you?”
Win Maung answered, “Yes, sir. At the beginning, I wanted to kill them. I was furious to them. However, when I seriously thought the occurrence, I felt that I was also guilty. Despite being her husband, I could not rent room for her. I understand it is the issue that caused this problem. Besides, why she came to here is she loves me. I am a man, but she is a woman. Even I could not stand the gossips and criticisms. How will she face the effects? It is rare to get real love. I know we love each other very much. Now, I could destroy our love or divorce her. The result would be she would commit suicide, or she would become a prostitute; on the other hand, I would become a drunkard. So, we have decided to continue to live together and face difficulties that we confront in the future.”
Kyaw Than Maung listened his answer and he was pleased with his decision because he showed wisdom although he was a fisherman. And then he stared at Theingi. He wanted to know how she will answer.
She told him, “I have apologized to my husband for the case, and I am grateful to the head of community. When my husband understands and he forgives me, I am overjoyed. Now, I know I cannot live without him. I will serve everything for him. He is everything for me. He is the most important person in my life. There is no two in my life. I promise I will love him forever.”
And then they went to their room. But Kyaw Tun and Kyi Kyi did not come to Kyaw Than Maung. Later, he heard rumors that they quarreled and fought with each other. They quarreled and fought each other cruelly. Because they couldn’t forgive each other, Kyi Kyi went away secretly and Kyaw Tun became a drunkard. He was drunk the whole day. They separated, and their lives were ruined.