Enote 51 – Shan IDPsFebruary 20, 2009
Villages of Internally Displaced People:
About 20 km. north of Mae Hong Song, very near the border of Thailand and Burma, a settlement of nationalist Chinese left over from the civil war in 1949, is found in Ban Rak Thai, a small village tourist destination. One can easily hire a van from Mae Hong Son to take you there for a lunch of good Chinese food, and shopping for Chinese tea and trinkets next to a very pleasant lake. It is a bit more difficult to go the next 1 or 2 km. to Thailand’s border with Shan State, but the extra effort is rewarded with a visit across the border to a village of Internally Displaced People, IDPs. There are about five such IDP villages of varying sizes along the Shan-Thai border. Loi Tai Leng where we have helped support a school for several years is the oldest and largest. The village we visited was opened just two years ago and is much smaller, shown at right.
As explained to us by the SSA (Shan State Army) village leader, the people suffer so much from the government soldiers, they abandon their homes and come to a place where they can seek refuge under the protection of their army. The army feels an obligation to do what they can to protect and help them. Thailand has closed its borders to refugees from Burma, so these people are restricted to living in their small village unless they are willing to venture to the battle lines only 7 km. away. Actually other ethnic groups in Shan State including the Pa-O and the Wa, also have military forces protecting the people, and Pa-O and Wa people are also to be found in the village.
We, of course, came to see the school and the children, shown left. As you can see the school is well appointed having woven bamboo walls, desks, chairs, and a solid concrete floor. It also has books, supplies and a teacher. Liz is shown talking to the teacher at right. He arrived last June, to teach English and Shan, and has hired one Thai teacher to help him. The village leader told us the children were currently well protected, but he could give us no assurances to the long term stability of the village. Although funds are limited for projects this year, we are always scouting for new possibilities, and this certainly is one.
Dr. Cynthia's Clinic:
Finally we’d like to report that Dr. Cynthia’s Mae Tao Clinic celebrated twenty years of operation on February 19, 2009. And we were asked to say a few words as an honored guest, We were happy to reflect on our seventeen year long friendship with Cynthia and her staff. Many talks in Burmese, some in Thai and English, a fine lunch, and, as shown in the picture, traditional dancing were part of the ceremony.
Feb. 01: Meet with DEAR Burma, an organization we support which holds Sunday classes for migrant Burmese workers. Fly to Chiang Mai.
Feb. 02-03: Meet with worker who supports IDP schools in Karen State. Visit Hod boarding house and discuss progress in gaining new students and new helpers, and new needs of the compound.
Feb. 04: Gave party for Seniors and Alumni. Saw Thay U Htoo for the first time in three or four years, and had a great discussion with her and others on politics.
Feb. 05-09: Interviewing Students, travel to Mae Hong Song.
Feb. 10-11: Visit Nai Soi School, Karenni Teachers project, and Shan IDP village.
Feb. 12: Travel to Mae Sot.
Feb. 13-15: Interview students with Patricia and George Kaufman.
Feb. 16: Visit Sabine Roper and her school. Alyson, Barbara, and Janice arrive,
Feb. 17-18. Interview students.
Feb. 19. Cynthia’s 20 year Celebration and Brackett’s party with Alumni and Seniors.
Looking forward to a big gathering with our students tonight.
Our best wishes to all of you,