Enote 26 – Three Shan Sisters

March 14, 2006

Introduction

We have entered the third and final phase of our work this year, that of interviewing new applicants. The excitement of meeting new young faces and discussing new plans and hopes for the future, is tempered by the knowledge that we have less than two more weeks working in this beautiful country with our refugee people. We are of course eager to get back to our friends and life in the States, but the attractions of Thailand and its refugees exert a strong, ever increasing pull on our hearts and minds.

Although the focus of our foundation is education, the opportunity for simple charity in this war zone is, as you can imagine, ubiquitous. Last year I reported on a landmine victim we saw in Mae Salit. In fact there are two, both of whom had been cared for by Kaw Rey Htoo, Tamla’s husband. This year they came to pay us a short visit to thank us and the kind people who upon hearing our story, decided to help them. With Tamla there as interpreter, we heard more of their stories. In one highly charged moment, Tamla’s voice broke as she described how the one man who could see, was still proud to be able to help his family. He had someone tie a blade to his arms so he could weed the crops, and thus still do some useful work. The man and his beautiful daughter in, I am sure her best Karen dress, are shown here.

A personal comment on landmines. Last year Liz and I were asked to support a school just across the river in Burma. As the discussion proceeded, we became concerned about security. The applicant responded security was no problem because he had planted at least 2000 landmines in the surrounding area! We couldn’t leave fast enough.

RajaphatRajabat
Rajabats, the teacher’s colleges in Thailand, have been good places for many of our refugee and hill-tribe students. They are not as expensive as the major schools, they have been accommodating to our students, and they are now gaining university status. A few years ago a new Rajabaht was opened in Mae Sot to service the students in this area.

Now that the Thai Ministry of Education has been making bold statements about their intention to accommodate all foreign children living in Thailand, we are planning to test these words, by pressing the President of the Rajabaht in Mae Sot.

After much negotiation the President has agreed to meet with us, along with members of the Consortium, tomorrow. We are supporting 15 students there. The picture shows the classroom building at the new Rajabaht in Mae Sot.

Three Shan Sisters
Three Sisters at PartyAbout a week ago we received a call from Charm Tong, a Shan woman who has achieved some recognition by virtue of her meeting last December with President George Bush to inform him about the situation of refugees from Shan State, Burma. Some of you may recall seeing her picture with the president in our news media. She was calling to invite us to a party she and her two sisters Hsengtai and Luenhorn, were giving for us. Hsengtai has just graduated from Payap University in Chiang Mai, and Luenhorn is currently enrolled in Naresuan University as a student of Law. We have supported both of them in these schools. Luenhorn told us that she was asked to write a paper for one of her classes in Law, and she wrote about herself studying in Naresuan without a Thai ID card. A visiting professor of law from Thammasat University, one of the most prestigious in Thailand, found out about the “illegal” law student and took up her cause. Now Luenhorn has “come out” as an illegal student, but has a powerful advocate who has a history of work for the oppressed in Thailand. From left to right in the picture are shown Liz, Charm Tong, Hsengtai, Luenhorn and Tom.

Activities

  • Feb. 11 - 16: With Chris and the Windfields interviewed students, the Peace Education Center, Dr. Cynthia’s School, the Children’s Boarding House at Mae Ramat and met with Eh Thwa and a back-pack medic who brought supplies in to a school we support in Burma.

  • Feb. 17 & 18: Traveled to the Mae La refugee camp and met with leaders of two other schools we support in Burma, and then on to Mae Salit where we met Tamla, and stayed overnight to talk with the teachers from Kler Day and to participate in our 3rd school closing ceremony at the Maw Kwee school.

  • Feb. 19 & 20 Returned to Mae Sot and met with more students, and with Fred Ligon local head of the Consortium, an NGO working in teacher training for refugees, and supporting small migrant worker schools.

  • Feb. 21 & 22 Visited Naresuan University and two students in Pisanulok.

  • Feb. 23 - 26: Took short vacation in Luang Prabang, Laos. Wonderful.

  • Feb. 26 – Mar. 06: Returned to Chiang Mai and interviewed 14 new applicants for scholarships next year.

  • Mar. 07 – present: Returned to Mae Sot to continue interviews of 24 new applicants.

Keep the home fires burning in Hamilton. After the hot weather here, we will be cold when we return.

Best Regards to all and thank you for making available another trip to Asia.

Tom & Liz Brackett

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