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Qnote 18/Enote 97
July 18, 2013

Dear Friends,

I'm sitting in my office during a sweltering afternoon in upstate New York, ruminating on the lives of the refugees, the slow but steady withdrawal of support by the international community, the mounting pressure on the refugees to return to their homes, the continuing plight of the Rohingyas.

Karen Children According to a report from the Karen News Organization Naw Day Wah Htoo from the refugee camp Mae Ra Ma Luang says, "Reducing the support in camps creates more difficulties for us. We don’t have sufficient medicine or medical services. For patients who have critical diseases that can’t be treated here in the camp because medical services don’t provide transportation and referral services to Mae Sariang anymore it is difficult. I feel like we are being neglected, education support is also being cut."

And in a special report published yesterday, Reuters said that Thai authorities were implicated in a Rohingya smuggling network. "A broker in Myanmar typically sends a passenger list with a departure date to a counterpart in Thailand, the smuggler said. Thai navy or militia commanders are then notified to intercept boats and sometimes guide them to pre-arranged spots, said the smuggler. The Thai naval forces usually earn about 2,000 baht ($65) per Rohingya for spotting a boat or turning a blind eye, said the smuggler, who works in the southern Thai region of Phang Nga and deals directly with the navy and police. The Thai navy and police denied any involvement in Rohingya smuggling. Manasvi Srisodapol, a Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that there has been no evidence of the navy trafficking or abusing Rohingya for several years."

It is indeed enough to make one despair. Malala Addressing UN

But then it was just last Friday that brought us the thunderous words of that Pakistani young woman, who showed us a child can lecture the world. "They thought the bullets would silence us. But they failed. Nothing has changed in my life except this, weakness, fear, and hopelessness died, and strength, fervor, and courage was born." And -bless her- this all for her right to an education.

As I write these last words to you this month, I have just returned from a Rotary luncheon that had invited some 30 odd university students visiting from China. That and the compilation of a database of our students has reminded me of the energy, enthusiasm, and sense of hopeful purpose our refugee students share with these young people. It is wonderful for an old man to behold.

Thank you all for your continuing interest in our work.

Best Wishes to all,

Tom