Under the Bridge

Date Publish: 
Thailand / Asia

“It's hard to believe
That there's nobody out there
It's hard to believe
That I'm all alone”

Those lyrics come in the middle of “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They could apply to Doy Sen, who lives, literally, under a bridge the village of Pang Mu, a few kilometres from Mae Hong Son in Northern Thailand.

Doy Sen is 24 and has a permanent look of confusion etched upon his face. He left his native town of Tuanggoo, Myanmar ten years ago because of the conflict there. “I am not from a poor family”, he says, but now he is, indisputably, badly off.

Three years ago he “settled” under his bridge on highway 1095, where he lives in a mosquito net, his clothes hanging on a line, his pots and plates his only real possessions. His nearest neighbours are two oxen.

There’s a stream bubbling close by, which you can see turns into a torrent during the rainy season. But it’s dry under the bridge; there are worse places to be.

When times were better he could earn 120 Thai Baht (USD4) per day in the rice paddies, but that work is irregular, all the more since he developed TB last year. He has been getting medicine every day from the local IOM-supported health clinic and will shortly be officially cured of TB.

Although he worries about his elderly mother, Doy Sen is going nowhere for the time being. As the song says: “Under the bridge, here I stay”.

Doy Sen at the IOM-supported health clinic in Pangmoo, Mae Hong Son province, Northern Thailand, where he gets regular checkups.  © Mikel Flamm 2013
Under the Bridge: Myanmar migrant Doy Sen outside his home for the past three years.  © Mikel Flamm 2013
To beat TB, patients must take a full course of drugs every day for at least six months.  © Mikel Flamm 2013
The global standard to fight TB is DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course) where a medical professional physically ensures that a patient has swallowed their medicine, every day for the entire duration of the treatment. Here,  Nurse Sriweing Suthigenda watches Doy Sen take his medication.  © Mikel Flamm 2013
Doy Sen opens his mouth to show he has swallowed his TB medication, in compliance with the Directory Observed Treatment, Short course (DOTS) protocol.  © Mikel Flamm 2013