Monthly Archives: May 2008


Edith took some photos at the Birthday party, you can see them on her Facebook page.

I will post photos of the work on the dorm at PhoPra once we get them…


Governing a refugee camp

I came across a fascinating blog today, G Walker is an American spending the summer working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the Mae La camp over the (Northern) summer. He seems to be a jurist of some sort, and provides a nice short summary of how the camp is run.

Shot of (a rather nice) Mae Sot street from G Walker’s blog

He also has a fascinating post on the project he will be involved with to introduce a wider range of punishments into the camp justice system, in particular a “restorative” community service component for minor offences and young offenders.

These posts are really interesting both for the information they contain about the official workings of the camp, but also to listen to an idealistic American specialist as he engages with people whose life, culture and experiences are so different from his. To me the reading is made more interesting, if also somewhat frustrating by not knowing anything about who G Walker is, all I know of “him” (and the gender and nationality I have assigned are guesses!) is what I read in the
blog he started on May 22nd after arriving in Bangkok!

NY Times reports on Cyclone Nargis Aid

The NY Times has a report “Weeks After Cyclone in Myanmar, Even Farmers Wait for Food” in case you do not have time to read it here are a few extracts:

Few of those who wait say they have received anything from the government, other than threats.

They said if we don’t break our huts and disappear, they will shoot us,” one man in the village of Thee Kone said over the weekend before a police jeep approached. “But as you can see, it’s raining now. We are pleading to the police to give us one more day and we will be gone far, far from the road, as they wish.”

Or again:

Villagers in the region, which previously provided much of the rice for the country of 48 million, now squat along miles of roads, holding out bowls to the occasional passing cars bringing food and other supplies. Children keep a vigil, rushing to the vehicles for handouts, sometimes thrusting their arms inside the cars’ windows.

I don’t know how the government is helping us,” said [… in …], a delta town 30 miles south of Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. He said the only aid he had seen was delivered by other Burmese citizens.

I am no beggar, so I didn’t eat anything in the past two days,” he said, leaning against a roadside palm tree. “Besides, you shouldn’t compete with kids for begged food.”

If you can bear pictures Mizzima has lots.


Don\'t talk about the lemons!Here is a great post you should read “freedom“. I’ll just copy a few words and hope you follow the link:

Their stories were strikingly similar: they came to Mae La primarily to study. Education in Burma was really expensive and it was no option for internally displaced people who lived in the jungle. They wanted to study theology and bible and philosophy. They walked for two weeks to one full month to come to Mae La and be “free” to study.

I looked around me. We were sitting in a classroom underneath a lone light bulb dangling from the ceiling that was partially made out of tarp in a refugee camp that had thousands of huts built practically on top of each other and was held together by a rusty barbed wire fence.

“Free?” I heard myself thinking, judging.

They told me stories, then. Their houses and churches and schools and entire villages were burned down by the Burmese military. They watched their family members and best friends tortured, mutilated, and murdered. Gonyouwah described with great detail one technique he remembered the military using: pouring boiling water over the heads of innocent civilians before scalping them.

I swallowed hard and realized my mistake. This refugee camp–what looks like a combination of animal pens and a prison in my busy mind that is trying desperately to make sense of what I’m seeing and hearing–is their freedom.

The picture above is from another post from this fine blog.

BTW give thanks that the generals are giving access for aid to reach their suffering people, and pray that the help needed may actually at least start to reach the cyclone victims in quantities that will make a real difference!

The results of the party

Old classroom with leaf roofThe party on Sunday went pretty well, people all seemed to enjoy Nathan and Tommy’s Karen-style food (it does help having professional chefs – thank you guys!). We raised over $2000 on the night which with some late arrivals is now up to about $2,500. The money is going towards a new roof for the girls dormitory at the school for IDP children in the village that lives in Thailand on rented land. The location means it is safe from the Myanmar Government army, and (since it is right on the border) accessible to the children of IDPs in Burma and people in the refugee camps.

However, the location also means that it gets no official support. It exists on what the village can supply together with help from a couple of charities. The Body Shop (Children on the Edge) provides rice for everyday, veges twice a week, fish paste or beans also twice a week, and meat about once a month. At least that was the case when we were there, rising food prices may have shrunk what they can buy 😦 Another group was helping with permanent buildings.

They have pulled back (at least at present) leaving the school with an urgent need to replace the roof on the girls dormitory. The leaf roofs only last two years and this one is overdue for replacement. The rains have started – remember the cyclone that passed through Burma?

The church needs about NZ$4,000 to finish the roof. We have collected NZ$2,500… If anyone who hasn’t contributed would like to please transfer the money to:

Partners Relief and Development at Westpac Bank (Upper Hutt branch) 03 0774 0598181 000 and label the gift “Phopra Dorm”.

Canadians wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners Canada website.

Americans wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners USA website.

Norwegians can find the information needed to make donations in Norway at:

Australians can find the information needed to make donations in Australia at:

UK Residents can find the information needed to make donations in the UK at:

PS: I promise this blog will not become a series of requests for money – but this need is urgent, and if you have been reading the posts you probably understand why I’d really love to help get this done 🙂

We still have lots more video and photos to post, and I still have not written anything like all the reflection pieces I hope to about our experiences!

New arrivals

Photoblog Timelight @ Mae La has a new essay The new arrivers and their food in Mae La Camp. In just ten pictures and a few score words you can get a good idea of life in the camp.
The little girl in the last picture is really enjoying her food. But it is not the feast we enjoyed for my birthday.
However, we’ve raised almost $2,600 towards a new roof for the girls dormitory at the IDP school. Thank you to everyone who contributed, and to Nathan and Tommy who cooked, and all those who helped clear up, especially Bob!
(I delayed posting this as there were still some donations coming in which were slowly pushing the total nearer to the $4,000 that’s needed. I have also been hoping to have pictures of the dorm as they have – I believe – started work on the roof this week…)

Cute kid

I\'m cute and I know it!Here’s a cute baby photo that Sarah took, at the IDP (Internally Displaced Person) village.

This Karen baby is cute and knows it, having your photo taken is fun too!

The clay protects from the sun, but who will offer protection from the Myanmar Army?

BTW: Today is The Party, so please – if you read this today – either turn up (if we have not met before you are spoecially welcome), or pray that it will all go well. This time there are just three (and Nathan’s friend Tommy) of us usually when our family has done a big party there have been 5-6 (but the others are in the UK ;-0