02-07-2007, 01:56 PM
Lost in Her Country Reply
BANGKOK — It took a Muslim mother of eight 25 years to find her way back to her home in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat after taking the wrong bus. "I was shocked and overjoyed when I saw the picture. It was certainly my mother," Mamu, the youngest son, told The Nation daily on Tuesday, February 6.
"I remembered her face, even though I've not seen her for 25 years," he cried in joy.
Mamu, 35, was 10 when his mother disappeared.
Jaeyaena Beuraheng, now 76, got a wrong bus from Malaysia, where she was on a visit to her husband.
Instead of arriving home, the bus took her to Bangkok, some 1,200 kilometers from her city.
When she arrived in the capital, Jaeyaena tried to get back to the south but her crisis worsened as she took another wrong bus to Chiang Mai, 700 kilometers further to the north.
Unable to read, write or speak Thai, the mother of eight spent five years begging in Chiang Mai.
In 1987, she was arrested and taken to the Wang Thong social service center, where she lived till her tragic story was accidentally discovered.
Narathiwat is one of the three Muslim-dominated southern provinces, which were an independent Muslim sultanate until annexed officially a century ago.
Eighty percent of the population in the provinces are Muslims and speak Malay as a first language.
Jaeyaena's story was only discovered by chance when three female students from Mamu's neighborhood went for training at the Phitsanulok social service center.
"It was only when the students in Muslim clothes visited her and she started chatting to them that we realized she wasn't mute," Jintana Satjang, the center director, told Reuters.
The staff thought she was a mute as she did not speak to anybody.
They called her "Mrs. Mon" because they thought her mutterings sounded like Mon, a tribal language in neighboring Myanmar.
They only discovered that they were wrong when they saw the woman talking to one of the Muslim student.
The students photographed Jaeyaena by a mobile camera and sent the photo to Mamu who had searched for his mum with his seven brothers and sisters in Thailand and Malaysia but in vain.
They were told she had been run over by a train.
After recognizing the photo, the overjoyed relatives took a 25-hour journey to Phitsanulok and brought Jaeyaena home.
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