Enote 106 – The Good and the BadJuly 22, 2014
Good news first.
About a dozen years ago we sent two Karen refugees across Burma from Thailand to India to study at a small college in Nagaland, a provence in Northeastern India. Hayso and Thoo Lei Paw are shown on the right in a picture taken at Patkai College in 2002. After finishing at Patkai, Hayso returned to the refugee camp and later went back to Nagaland to study for a Masters Degree. He returned again to Mae Hla refugee camp and started the Shalom Arts and Leadership Colllege. Just a few days ago I received a posting from the internet written by Hayso. He says," After finishing high school in 1999, I didn't know what to do and where to go. Like many of my friends, I also had the feeling that there was no hope for us. Many of my friends ended up marrying or simply staying at home: there were no job opportunities or higher education programmes to apply for. As I thought about the outside world, where opportunity and privileges seemed so abundant, I was discouraged. I was the students' leader in high school and started getting involved with student working groups after high school, but what I really wanted was to pursue my education further. After working with the student network group, I got the opportunity to pursue further studies with a full scholarship from the Brackett Foundation. My only dream after completing my studies was to help my community: I want to see unprivileged young men and women get the same education that others in the world are entitled to. I have always thought that education expresses our life: it should serve to make us conscious and liberate us. This idea gives me the strength to involve myself in education in my community."
Exactly what we like to see as the fruits of our work. The full article showing Hayso with his students at Mae Hla camp can be seen here. The longer we remain in this work the more wonderful results like this we receive.
At the same time we are informed of more ominous events. You are probably aware that the president of Thailand was recently deposed in a coup, and now the country is ruled by the military. Generally politics in Thailand has not been a great concern to us for we have been able to find ways to do our work under any government. But now it seems that the current rulers have become more interested in returning the refugees to Burma.
On July 14, the International Business Times reported "Thailand to Deport Burmese Refugees..." Read More...
Yesterday we learn from the Irrawaddy "Thai Authorities Hamper Food Deliveries to Burmese Refugee Camp" Read More...
Finally today the Irrawaddy reported "Burmeese Refugee Headcount Begins, Sparking Fears of Forced Repatriation" Read More...
It certainly is easy to understand Thailand's interest in return of refugees to their homeland. They have been in camps for 25 years or more. But in our view, Burma is not yet ready to accept its people back. Their land has been confiscated. Their schools have been destroyed and need to be rebuilt. Healthcare providers need to be made available. Ethnic pride, animosity and hatred needs to be sharpely reduced. The problems surrounding return are very difficult and patience from all parties is needed.
Best Wishes to all,