Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dear Friend of Shan Refugees:
“Premature euphoria.” That is the term Burma expert, Benedict Rogers, used at Chiang Mai University in speaking last week about international reaction to Burma’s recent conversion to a “democrary,” the freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi, and her election to the Burma Parliament. Here are the facts: The Burmese Army is waging all out war in Kachin State and Arakan States. Deployed to Arakan State to quell violence between Rahkine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, the Burmese military is accused of inciting more violence.
An estimated 150,000 Kachin are now in displaced persons’ camps or refugee camps. The military has not given the UN easy access to help them.
Approximately 150,000 Rohingya are in displaced persons’ camps living under the worst conditions imaginable. When they tried to escape to Bangladesh, they were turned back. They receive little aid.
The Shan Herald Agency for News recently reported that the Burmese military is no longer waging all out war in Shan State, but “…abuses such as beating, stealing, confiscation, extortion and forced labour etc… have become worse even in many peaceful places. Many Burmese military authorities seem to be still enjoying using their fists, boots and sticks on ordinary civilians, though they may no longer be able to be as trigger-happy as before.”
The good news is that the Shan children who are fortunate enough to get an education in Thailand do well. The two young women in the photo below are former students who had to leave their school at the Thai-Burma border because bullets were flying overhead during a skirmish between Shan and Burmese soldiers. They are now attending Thai universities!
The two young men in the photo below are former students who also had difficult lives. If you have a copy of “The Shan: Refugees Without a Camp,” you can read about them in the chapters “Shang Pun and the Sweatshop” (Shang Pun and his son are at the left) and “Sai Sam Searches for Work” (Sai Sam and his son are at the right). We gave them small amounts of support money for several years, and they now have good jobs, helping others.
The photo below tells another interesting story: The young man at my left is our head teacher. Students applaud when he arrives at school. The fellow at my right is a former student who said he was interested in computers, asked for a $10.00 book so he could learn more. He also took a short computer training class and is now renowned in the Shan community as a computer guru. The two young women grew up in an agricultural workers’ camp, where we gave small scholarships to the students so they could attend Thai schools. When they graduated, they attended the school where I taught English in 2002 and 2003, and
They are now teaching children in their home camps!
Thank you for helping Shan youth help themselves (and others)! Photos of the children will follow soon.
Dear friends of Shan Refugees:
Conditions in Burma are abysmal. The military is waging open warfare against people protesting the takeover of their country. It is not just the protesters who are in danger: Loi Kaw Wan, an encampment of Shan displaced persons, on the urma/Thai border north of Chaing Mai, has been shelled and residents cannot farm their land for fear of attack.
In the past, we supported six orphans at this site, and I am deeply saddened by the plight of their people. https://myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-military-artillery-shells-explode-near-shan-idp-camps. Below photo is with young women who lived at this encampment.
You can read more about the military coup here:
The Burmese military blocked internet service for more than a month. When they still had it, a former student wrote simply, "Scared, Teacher."
NEWS FROM THAILAND AND OUR EDUCATION PROGRAMS:
Thailand is having a resurgence of COVID cases, and only 1% of the people have been vaccinated.
Our schools have been closed for some weeks and are tentatively scheduled to reopen in early June. When in session, they accomplish amazing things. Here is some information we gleaned from the last report from Shan Youth Power, SYP, which manages the education
programs, wrote about several outstanding students. She studies as Secondary level, grade at Nawamin Payap High School. Nong Tida always has a passion for working at social work organizing, and leading the students in the community for activities
such as organizing reading books, decorating the school to be clean, leading the students for environment activity, encouraging the community to reduce plastic by collecting the money and buying plates, spoons for using in community, such as birthday party. She always happy to join social activity workshops or camps that are provided by Shan Youth Power. She has a strong heart to help the community and wants to see migrant people have better future.
Nong Tida may not be outstanding in language skills such as English but she is an excellent in social work. In SYP, we are not just developing in academic studies, we guide them to be who they are, to follow their dreams. We believe people have different talents, which means that although we cannot be outstanding in everything, at least we do good for people, for society.
Noung Shwe Kyar is one of the outstanding students from KarnKanook2 Migrant School. She has been studying at Chiang Mai Vocational College as a first-year student in Design, academic year 2020.
Her words: I am one of the students who has received a scholarship from Bernice [ie, Schools for Shan Refugees]. I got scholarship since elementary school until grade-9. I knew about this scholarship from one alumni student who is living in the same camp with me. We learned at Migrant school together. I thought that I had difficult circumstances and my family had very low income. This scholarship can provide for food expenses at school or tuition fee. And volunteer teachers from Shan Youth Power also come to teach at our camp. Therefore, I got the scholarship. The difficult thing I have faced is the cost of passport and visa extension fees. There are 4 people in my family and we all are using passports as well... this year there is an additional blood test and covid-19 test. Due to Covid-19 pandemic many people had lost their jobs and it is hard to find a job.
My mom works as a housecleaner during this period it hard for her to get a job too. Especially, if you are migrant workers. Because some employers are afraid of migrant workers. They think that they will get infection with Covid-19 from migrant workers.
For example, we went to clean in a house but they did not want us to enter the house. As for my father, in the past he had many jobs and it was easy to get a job to work. Now, there is not many jobs like before so, it is hard for him to get a job too. And he has to work to pay for food day to day and no savings. In the past, migrant workers like us wouldn't study until high school. They would only study till middle school then start to work. [Our program is extending the education of Shan youth.]
We are completing a report about our teachers—five of whom were migrant camp students and got scholarships from us, some, like Nong Shwe Kyar, for as many as nine years. I will forward it soon.
In the meantime, we are hoping to keep the schools and scholarship programs afloat. We are ever so grateful to those of you who have donated. That money is in safekeeping until the education programs resume. If you have not donated this year and wish to do so, scholarships range from $30.00 per year for elementary students to $100, $200, and $300 per year for older students, attending vocational schools. Donations can be made through Pay Pal at our website: www.shanrefugeeschools.org OR you may write a check to Schools for Shan Refugees and send it to
Mary Worner , Treasurer
28424 Water Street Road, Underwood, MN 56586
Many thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Underwood for their continued support in the form of an annual grant. We are grateful. The Shan youth are grateful.
If we remain COVID free into fall, we plan to hold a 3-course Shan dinner fundraiser in Minneapolis. Hold the date: Saturday, October 9!
Bernice Johnson, Vice President Schools for Shan Refugees, Inc.
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