Theatre as a Form of Cultural Diplomacy - Thailand

Migrant children from Myanmar express their hopes and dreams for their future through theatre

June 15th, 2016

In a play hosted by Museum Siam in Bangkok, Thailand, migrant children from Myanmar got the opportunity to learn about theatre and speak about their dreams and hopes for the future in a moving play called “The Butterfly”.

Dr Pavaluck Surasavadi, a drama lecturer at Mahidol University, and theatre veteran Ladda Kongdech, directed the play. The play was purposefully written to evoke the concept of a jigsaw, combining different stories to show the aspirations of the children who were performing. Ladda and Pavaluck’s aim was to focus on the hopes and dreams of the children, rather than talking about the grim living situations of migrant workers in Mahachai.

The play consisted of 20 children, hand selected from Thai seafood factories in Mahachai. Migrant workers from Myanmar face very poor working conditions in Mahachai, where they are being deprived of basic rights and of the chance to adapt to Thai society. The working conditions in seafood factories are well known, but not the stories of the children working there.

The children sang traditional lullabies from both Thailand and Myanmar, simulated Thai children’s games, and spoke about their dream careers while holding colourful masks representing their own faces. The play was named “The Butterfly”, symbolising the children’s yearning for freedom.

The audience delighted in seeing the children on stage, as they, in their innocence, taught them how to enjoy themselves against the odds. For the children, participating in a theatre production gave them a break from the dull everyday of working at seafood factories.

Plays such as “The Butterfly” can have an impact as a tool for cultural diplomacy. It can inspire people to rethink the migration situation in Thailand and the place migrants have in Thai society. Furthermore, it challenges us to consider what can be done to make life easier for children, similar to the children that spoke about their dreams and hopes in Museum Siam.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Dominique Schmutzer, CD News