The border between Thailand and Burma is surprisingly porous. We began to be aware of this when we crossed “the bridge” to renew our visas. Our trip to the local church celebration last Sunday underlined just how permeable a frontier drawn on a map can be.
The village itself is comprised mainly of Karen “Internally Displaced People” though it is in Thailand, on land rented cheaply by a sympathetic Thai citizen, and ignored by the Thai authorities. Some of the villagers are Thai citizens, as are their children. (To complicate matters often one parent is an IDP the other a Thai-Karen.)
It is also home to a school, which teaches not only village children, but also children whose parents live inside Burma (they live in dormitories) and some from refugee camps too.
One teacher we talked to a lot gave us a good impression of a school with very few resources indeed, except the people. The children get meals (thanks to Children on the Edge – the Body Shop Foundation): rice everyday, meat at least once a month, and vegetables, yellow beans or fish paste each twice a week. However, there are few or no textbooks, even for the teachers to use. The guy we talked with has studied engineering in Burma (at Mandalay University) before fleeing to China and getting a degree in Computers, Maths and English. I wonder how many NZ schools on making a change to the curriculum get rid of the old textbooks. If you know of one do let us know, maybe we can arrange to get them to people who will really use the “old” books. In some subjects real numbers would be great, in others enough for the teachers to use or to make a small library for the students would help.
As a final illustration of the porous border we went for a bath at the river, and watched motorized bullock carts (powered by rotovator engines) go back and forward across the frontier, or sometimes merely down the border to re-enter Burma a hundred or two meters downstream.