maids have a secure place in any household. Special maids have a
special place. This is the story of a special maid. It is a
story of courage against seemingly insurmountable odds that will
bring tears to your eyes.
Suchada was born in an Akha Hill Tribe
village outside Chiang Rai. She was one of four girls and two
boys. Her father was ostensibly a farmer, but in actual fact
never really worked as he was an opium addict.
Suchada did not go to school, as there was no
school in her locality. However, when she was eight years old
her life changed. Her father owed 1,200 baht to the Yao people
for his opium supplies, and pressure was brought to bear on him
to pay his debt. He had no money, so he said he would give one
of his daughters as payment. Suchada was not the prettiest, so
she was given away by him to be a slave.
The eight year old grew up overnight. She
tried to commit suicide by jumping out of a tree. She spent that
first month in tears, until her mother came to see her, but was
told that Suchada had to endure, as the honour of the family was
at stake. (At this stage in the interview, we had to stop for a
while as Suchada and my interpreter were now both crying.)
For the next 12 years Suchada endured,
working as a slave in the Yao camp. She was abused, beaten and
degraded, living a life that you and I can only vaguely imagine,
until she heard people talk of a place called Bangkok. It
sounded like Nirvana. Some people took pity on her and gave her
money for the bus and she ran away.
The bus money ran out at Samut Prakarn and
the starving girl took a job washing up and cleaning in a
restaurant. Her pay? 100 baht a month. She did not have an ID
card, so once again advantage was being taken of her.
She was willing and worked hard, even though
she could not read or write, but someone from the restaurant
tried to take physical advantage of her and she fled again.
Hearing of better pay, she took a job in a fish canning factory.
The wages were once more barely above subsistence, but she was
frugal and eventually saved up enough to return to Chiang Rai as
she had a plan in the back of her mind.
She returned to her captors and paid them
1,200 baht. “I pay off the debt of my father. Now I am
free!” She also needed an ID card, so went to her home
village, but there was no brass band welcome for the young
Suchada. She could not recall which was her house, and went from
dwelling to dwelling asking if anyone there remembered her.
Nobody did. She was dead as far as any of the villagers were
concerned, until she went to one house and saw her father. “Do
you know who I am?” she demanded. “I am the daughter that
you sold.” He refused to acknowledge who she was, saying that
his daughter was dead. She then rolled up her sleeve and showed
him the unmistakable birthmark she has on one shoulder to prove
her identity, but he showed no remorse.
Her time in her village gave her the chance
to collect some house papers to secure her ID card, but also
resulted in her having her father arrested for brutalising her
mother. It was not a happy home.
She left and this time made Bangkok complete
with the new ID card and took a job as a cleaner in a hospital
in Bang Na. She saved her money until she could pay for night
school to learn to read and write Thai, but she could only
afford 20 nights of 2 hours duration. But at least it was a
However, Bangkok was too expensive on her
cleaner’s wages so she went to Rayong and worked as a room
maid in a hotel. This was a reasonable job, but her inability to
read and write properly was a problem. The other staff got to
know that the “X” on the cleaning sheet meant “Suchada”,
but she wanted to improve.
She returned to Bangkok, taking a job as a
housemaid. She was devastated when she found out her employer
had refused to let her family speak to her after one of her
sisters was involved in an accident. Once again, advantage had
been taken, she wanted out.
She went to Hat Yai as she was told there was
good money to be made there, only to find “good money” meant
bar work, a line of employment which she would not countenance.
She went to Pattaya, to a series of poorly
paid positions, working for people who would pay less than the
minimum for a girl with only 40 hours of schooling in her life.
The poorly educated downtrodden again. She even worked on a road
gang building roads. “That was a good job because they paid
140 baht a day, but when the road was finished, so was the
Eventually she landed a job as the maid for a
farang and with it, some decent wages. “Life has changed. I
have a motorcycle and some money in the bank. In the future I
want to buy some land and build a small house. I like to think
my family could come to live with me, but I know that is
impossible.” (Another tear was shed.)
And that is the story of Suchada, who is my
special maid. A story which I did not fully know until I began
to write her profile, and if you ever thought you had it tough,
re-read her life’s story. That people can continue to take
advantage of the oppressed is an indictment on us all.
P.S. Suchada has started official Thai language classes!