World Refugee Day

    • Anonymous
      June 20, 2006 at 9:20 pm

      Maybe this is not on the lighter side but I felt compelled to write about it. It was there in Thailand where my CIDP started. But I don’t regret a second of it.

      Today is World Refugee Day. CNN just brought a special with beautiful, blonde Paula Zahn interviewing Angelina Jolie, movie star and ambassador for the UNHCR, the United State High Commissioner for Refugees. It’s quite a photo op, starving undernourished children in Africa, reminiscent of Jewish prisoners in Nazi German concentration camps. It certainly is tragic and worthy of our support.

      What bothers me about all this is the total neglect of another group of refugees, ethnic minorities from Burma. It is not very easy to get good photo ops, Karen or Shan refugees being raped and killed, refugees maimed by land mines trying to escape persecution spending days in the jungle between Burma and Thailand.

      There is one camp in the Thai border area, tucked away from public view, reserved for the handicapped, men and women with limbs missing. We’ve been there. They are trying to make a life for themselves, trying to survive. They run schools for their children, using copies of old text books someone donated to them. Another camp with 17 thousand Karen refugees was torn down recently by order of Thai authorities. It was too close to a national park. It was relocated to another site close to the Burmese border, close to incursions by the SPDC, the Burmese military. We have a video of that.

      We were teaching a group of young Burmese minority refugees in 2003 and 2004. Most of the students were smuggled from their camps to Chiangmai, escorted by bribed Thai police. BaBoot, (not his real name to protect his identity) found out the first day of class that both his parents and his brothers had been killed in their village during a raid by the Burmese SPDC. He was like a zombie most of the time. We attended a Buddhist ceremony at the school honoring the spirits of his departed family. He came back the following year to repeat the course and was doing well. He came to our house next door often. He missed his family.

      My question is: Were is the coverage of the fate of Burmese minority refugees? I guess it would be difficult to shoot interesting pictures. It would be too dangerous for reporters. Some have written books about it but mainly it’s been very quiet on our side of the fence.

      We may be back next year to teach again a new group of young hopeful refugees, determined to make a difference in their camps. It depends very much on how I am doing with my CIDP. I continue to be registrar for the underground school. It’ll be my fourth year of keeping the records on a database I created. Only a few students requested transcripts so far hoping to be admitted to a college somewhere,. They would need fake passports to get admitted. Maybe one or two have managed. I am not sure. Some write to us sometimes. Thailand does not recognize them as refugees, she does not subscribe to the UNHCR. Thailand wants to maintain good relations with the military dictatorship of Burma, now known as Myanmar. Our students are all illegals caught in a never-never land of international politics..

      More about our experience:


    • Anonymous
      June 23, 2008 at 12:19 pm

      Couple of days late — bring back to the top.

    • Anonymous
      June 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm

      Thank you for bringing this thread back to the top, JEF, otherwise I would have missed it.

      Norb, I am so impressed by the work you and Carol have been and are doing for these unfortunate people!

      You may be aware of the fact, but the only indpendent radio broadcasting for refugees and other opressed Burmese are located in Oslo, Norway. Since freedom of speech is somewhat lacking in other parts of the world too, it is no use for me to give you any internet link to information about the radio channel, but its name is Democratic Voice of Burma, and I came up with about 29 700 hits when Googling [U]Burmese radio in Oslo[/U]

      My thoughts go out to all the millions of refugees in the world.

    • Anonymous
      June 23, 2008 at 5:03 pm

      We are truely blessed! Are there ways for individuals to help? I sometimes feel frustrated by seeing all the injustice and feel helpless to make a difference.

    • Anonymous
      June 23, 2008 at 8:07 pm

      [B]JEF[/B], thanks for bringing this old thread up again. As some of you know we did go back to Thailand last year for two months to work with refugees again, teaching and keeping student records on our laptop. Neighbors on our street collected used children’s clothes through their churches. We took back two huge suitcases full and gave them to kindergarten teachers from different camps who came to Chiang Mai for training. I skipped one month of IVIG infusions and used my rollator over there. It wasn’t always easy but overall it went relatively well.
      Here more about it: [COLOR=”Navy”][/COLOR]
      this year we had to turn down the invitation to come back because of my condition.
      [B]Allaug[/B], we were aware of the radio station in Norway. They also maintain a website.
      [B]Josh’s gram[/B] I don’t know of a way to help the refugees over there directly. However, it might be possible to help the ones who recently been allowed to come over here to resettle. A large group of them came to Denver last year and we had an opportunity to meet with them. Most of them speak some English but they mentioned that one of their needs among other things would be for English tutoring . We wanted to help them but because of the distance (1 1/2 hours) and me being confined to a power chair now, we can’t do it. I don’t know if there are any in your area but perhaps you can find out or we can help you.