In preparation of our upcoming art show to benefit the BRC, we wanted to offer content which gives readers a more proficient understanding of what refugees and asylum seekers go through. ISOS was proud to post the article Waiting by Sherri Phenchard (See part one or part two). Today we’re excited to post the following interview from Ryan, a Chinese Refugee who found himself several thousand miles away from home in Bangkok, Thailand.
ISOS: Hey Ryan, first tell us where were you born?
I am originally from Xi’an, China.
ISOS: So how did you end up living in Bangkok?
I moved here with my parents. The three of us fled from China.
“We were constantly harassed, mistreated and interrupted in China.“
ISOS: Why did you have to leave? I mean… who were you running from and why Thailand?
We were persecuted by the government because our faith in Christianity and my father’s association with Christian organizations outside of China, combined with his involvement with the house-church movement in China. We were constantly harassed, mistreated and interrupted in China. We were forced to move from place to place, living like exiles in the country we’re from. It was unbearable living like that.
The reason we chose to come to Thailand, was because we heard on the Radio Free Asia (an U.S. government founded non-profit radio station) that in Thailand some organizations could provide international protection to people who are persecuted in their own country. We didn’t know they were referring to UNHCR at that time. Another reason was because coming to Thailand from China was financially affordable and the distance was relatively short.
ISOS: How did you get to Thailand?
“We walked for 12 hours that day.“
ISOS: What? Ha?
We traveled to southwest China and entered a town bordering Laos. There we met a villager and he agreed to help us cross the border. The next morning he took us through the mountains to Laos. We walked for 12 hours that day. We arrived in a village where we took a bus to the nearest city. In that city we met someone who helps North Koreans cross over into Thailand. He helped us get a “road ticket” to Ventienne which got us through the check points that our bus passed. From there, we met some fisherman at the river between Laos and Thailand. We told them we wanted to cross and arranged a time. We came back at night and they took us across the river into Thailand. After we arrived we didn’t know where to go. We followed one main street almost all night, for about six hours. We finally arrived in the nearest city. From there we found a bus station and immediately got tickets to Bangkok.
ISOS: How long did this trip take altogether?
It took about ten days. Thats because we spent a lot of time waiting in Laos to get the paperwork. Actually, we only spend 3-4 days traveling.
ISOS: Before you decided to come to Thailand, how long had you been unable to return home?
We were in a homeless situation. Place to place, city to city since 1998. About 8 years.
“Every day, living on the edge of bankruptcy, is how I would describe the general financial condition of a refugee in Bangkok.“
ISOS: What is your situation now in Thailand?
Every day, living on the edge of bankruptcy, is how I would describe the general financial condition of a refugee in Bangkok. Because refugees are not allowed to work, it is particularly hard to find a way to sustain yourself in this country. Fortunately, I was able to work as volunteer at the Bangkok Refugee Center because I could speak English. As a refugee we also receive a monthly allowance from UNHCR, but this income only allows a very limited living standard.
ISOS: What happens if you get sick?
We can receive basic medical care from the clinic at the refugee centre, if a better treatment is needed, we could be referred to a public hospital with the approval from the doctor at the refugee centre.