Lao Immigrant Recounts his 10 Years Working in Klong Toei
Klong Toei’s cart-pushers are an integral part of the bustling fresh market’s operations—and charm. Don, is a 31-year-old Laotian from Savannakhet province, who crossed the Mekhong River and headed to Bangkok in search of work. Despite landing in Klong Toei over ten years ago, he only just got his cart-pusher’s vest.

By Monruedee Jansuttipan | Sep 15, 2011

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  • Lao Immigrant Recounts his 10 Years Working in Klong Toei
  • Lao Immigrant Recounts his 10 Years Working in Klong Toei
  • Lao Immigrant Recounts his 10 Years Working in Klong Toei

BK: Why did you decide to work here?
There is nothing to do at home. Mostly I work in our rice field. I was born in a poor farming family. I lived and worked in the village until I was 19. Then I decided to cross the border to work in Thailand, hoping there would be more jobs for me here.

BK: What was your first job in Thailand?
I started working at Klong Toei Market right away. I first worked at a mushroom shop for eight years but I finally got bored. Then I changed to work at a fish stall for three years before I became a cart pusher last month. Working at the fish stall was quite hard. I worked from 8pm till dawn, carrying these huge fish tanks and stacking them up on a truck. Then I’d sit and fillet the fish for vendors who came to buy it.

BK: When did you start working as a cart pusher?
I applied for this job with the company who runs the push cart business in the market last month. I have to rent the cart, basket and waistcoat with the number from them. It comes out to B2,300 per month. I get about 14-15 customers per day and I make B20-B30 baht from each of them. As I’ve just started doing this job, I don’t have many regular customers like the others.

BK: What is your daily routine?
I work from 6am to 5pm. The market is most crowded at 3-4am but I don’t come to work then because I don’t have customers. The market is busy at night, but mostly with professional buyers, and they mostly call on the pushers they know. It’s different during the day. Day shoppers call anyone near them. But I do get some regular customers who pick me, because they know me from where I used to work.

BK: What’s the hardest thing to carry?
I don’t like to carry fruits like bananas, or vegetables. It’s hard to control because these kinds of things are easy to bruise and get mushy. If I damage them, I get complaints from customers. Pushing dry stuff is much easier—like garlic or noodles.

BK: What’s your family situation?
I have a wife and a kid, who is just eight months old. I rent a room to live with my wife for B1,500 a month, not including the electricity and water bills which are about B300-B400. We had to send our kid to live with my wife’s mother in Savannakhet. My wife and I used to live in the same village, but we fell in love when we met here a few years ago. Now she works at a kanom jeen [cold rice noodles] stall. We go back home once a year during the holidays. No one else in my family has ever crossed the Mekong River to work in Thailand. My mom and sisters stay at the village while my brothers all work in Laos.

BK: Do you dream of doing something else?
If I can save up enough money, I want to go back home and open a grocery shop. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, because I have no money.

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