On December 26, 2004, May Aye Nwe, a young 20-year-old girl set out to find a better life for herself by boarding a boat to Thailand. Unfortunately, as this young girl had her whole life ahead of her, as many other victims that day, her adventure started just as the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami raged in.
Her mother received a phone call ten days later that informed her that May Aye Nwe, her beautiful daughter, had died and was tragically lost during the tsunami, as reported by MSN.
Ten years later, May’s mother has learned the truth about her daughter. Aye Pu, now a 55-year-old widow, discovered that her daughter’s body was one of more than 400 unclaimed bodies — 418 to be exact — that had been recovered and placed in an anonymous grave as reported by Yahoo! News.
May Aye Nwe lies in a grave at the Tsunami Victim’s Cemetery in southern Thailand with a tombstone marked only with a number. The cemetery is a memorial to the forgotten victims. Yet, May Aye Nwe was never forgotten, nor will she ever be.
ABC News reports that it is believed that most of the 418 bodies buried there are migrant workers who came from Myanmar and were working in the area illegally with no documents. When they died during the tsunami, either no one knew who they were, or the ones who did know them were afraid to acknowledge them to the proper authorities.
Htoo Chit, a human rights advocate for Myanmar migrants spoke of this during an interview at the cemetery as reported by ABC.
“I believe that over 90 percent of these bodies are Burmese migrant workers. Many migrants who lost their loved ones, they were afraid of being arrested and deported. That’s why there are so many bodies here.”
Now that Aye Pu knows the truth, she can now begin her healing process after almost ten years since the disaster that took her daughter’s life.
“For so long, I believed my child was lost. It’s impossible to put into words how very sad — and very happy — I now feel.”
May Aye Nwe dreamed of becoming a nurse and set off for Thailand to earn money with her best friend, Khin Htway Yee. According to Yahoo! News, the two girls travelled about 600 miles on their journey as the waves began to swell, and the calm ocean turned fierce in a matter of moments.
Khin Htway Yee, who survived the tsunami describes to Yahoo! News exactly what it was like for her as the boat flipped and panic set in. She recalls the last horrific moments of her best friend’s life.
“We were grabbing at one another. She tried to pull me, but finally I had to push her away. There was nothing I could do. I was struggling for my life, and I couldn’t save her.”
Khin Htway Yee, 31, survived by holding onto a plastic container bobbing in the water.
Yee, who was in Thailand illegally, immediately went into hiding after she washed up on shore from the tsunami, and remained so for two years until she returned home.
The Associated Press began an investigation into the anonymous victims of the tsunami, and discovered that the reference number PM66-TA1415 marked on one of the graves belonged to May Aye Nwe.
It is still a mystery as to why May was not identified because “her body was found with her national identity card,” which was what the AP used to contact her mother, as reported by Yahoo! News.
As time marches on, the other anonymous victims may remain unidentified. However, all the victims will remain in the hearts of those who loved them, and at least one mother is able to have a bit of closure as she moves on knowing the truth.
[Photo Credit: Yahoo.com; MSN.com]