On Wednesday, Thursday 7th (Wed 6th in the USA), George Bush will be visiting Thailand, as well as celebrating 175 years of Thai/US relations, he also gets to lunch with “Burmese activists” in Bangkok. After that he will (according to the Market Watch report of a Press Briefing by Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, Dennis Wilder) “be interviewed by the press in Thailand that broadcast into Burma, so that he can give a message directly to the Burmese people.”
Meanwhile Mrs Bush will visit Mae La refugee camp and Dr Cynthia’s clinic.
The refugee camp Mrs Bush will visit
The Bush visit to Asia continues in China. China is one of the Burmese military junta’s few enthusiastic supporters. So I guess we can pray that this visit may bring significant real hope to the Karen and other Burmese ethnic groups suffering attacks by Burmese military forces.
Following recent fighting across the river, in Burma, near Pho Pra (see Monday’s article Karen Villagers Flee Burmese Forces in Irrawaddy News), Partners reports that:
Due to the very recent attacks in Walakee; villagers from the surrounding areas have now reached the border. …
Villagers fear being taken for forced portering, being used as land mine sweepers and the extorting of money and animals. Currently 49 families are along the border and in need of supplies. Villagers have been told by DKBA that if they do not return to their villages today, they [DKBA] will destroy the village, rice and corn fields.
On the 26th July purchased and sent the following to these families:
150 Blankets, 150 Mosquito nets, Plastic Tarps, Rice, Sardines, Mama Noodles, Salt, Oil, Chili, Cooking pots and Lighters.
We are able to supply these items because of the generous gifts we recieve through our “5 alive” campaign.
If you would like to find out more or donate towards this work, please visit:
Photo from Mae Tao Clinic
Robert, who posted in a comment below is an Ophthalmologist who volunteers at the Mae Tao Clinic (Dr Cynthia’s Clinic) in Mae Sot. He has done some work with a child with Cerebral Palsy. He would love for this child to get more focused help, so if you know of an OT who might be willing and able to travel to Thailand this is their chance to make a real difference, not just to one life, but to many. Do encourage them to contact me (for example by leaving a comment below (the form asks for email address but I’m the only one who sees them) and I’ll put them in touch with Robert…
Forced repatriation of Karen refugees from Mae Ra Ma Luang camp on July 17, 2008. (Photo HRW)
I have not seen it reported in the print media, but several online alternative news sources have taken up the recent report from Human Rights Watch who report that:
On July 17, local Thai paramilitary forces, the tahaan prahn (literally ‘hunter-killer soldiers’) rounded up 52 Karen from two refugee camps in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province along the Burma border, 39 – mostly women and children – from Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp and 13 from Mae La Oon camp. They permitted 17 students to stay on the Thai side, but sent 35 refugees across the border to the Ei Tu Hta relocation site in Burma.
The refugees, part of a larger group of more than 280 who fled to the Thai camps in early 2008 during a major military offensive in Eastern Burma, were told late on July 16 that they would be forced back the following day. According to local refugee sources, tahaan prahn commanders announced that all new arrivals since April will eventually be forced back to Burma. [Read full report]
Thailand faces a difficult and complex problem, the military hunta who control Burma are determined to either kill or expel the ethnic minority people from Burma. They are succeeding. Over 140,000 Karen alone live in refugee camps in Thailand, and unknown numbers live and work illegally in the country, not counting those from the other tribes. However, forced repatriation of civilians into an active war zone is inhumane. Such actions will brutalise the soldiers ordered to perform them, which in turn will put the Thai people themselves at risk. More immediately it places intolerable fear on the many thousands of refugees in the camps who have not yet been “processed” and given refugee papers.
I have been reading a diary written by Nay Moo a Karen very recently resettled in Australia from Mae La, it is a mix of happy and sad events and comments as you’d expect, I found this especially touching:
Today I had no appointment to go so I thought I would go out and have a walk around the streets and explore the place and observe the nearby environments. After breakfast, my two brothers and I went out and walked along the streets. We saw no one on the street. The houses are like the tombs in the cemetery…quiet and lonely! I wished to see someone and greet them but the situation here is not the same as our home land… hear my say… my fellow friends… you might be surprised when you get here! We walked along the street corner by corner; it was breezy, cold and lonely! After walking for a long distance, we got tired then we sat down at one of the corners, looking around and talking to each other.
As by chance, we saw a man, age about 40, riding a bicycle on the road we were sitting on. We looked at him and smiled at him with our heart saying that, ‘we are happy and excited to be in your country’. Maybe he is happy to see us and could read our heart as well. As this was also our fifth day in Australia, so he replied our smiling faces with his greeting starting with the letter “F” …. What the Fucking are you looking at!!!! You Fucking kids!!!! You idiot!!! …then he murmured along the way as he was cycling. How do you feel if you were me? This is my first greeting I have ever heard on the road in Australia that I cold never forget. We came back home, took a rest and went to sleep.
I must have had a reverse “senior moment”, I remember writing a post about the Burmese Evening at BCNZ put on by the West Auckland Burmese community, with Burmese food and dancing and songs from Karen, Chin and Kachin groups, but when Miriam sent me a notice about it, I can’t find the post anywhere 😦 So, here, belatedly, is a link to the invitation, and extracts of the details, it is:
- organised by the Burmese Christian Fellowship,
- on Sunday July 20th from 5pm till 7pm
- $25 per person includes food, entertainment and donation to Cyclone Nargis relief (organised informally through contacts on the spot)
- at Bible College of New Zealand (if it has not changed its name by then 😉 221 Lincoln Rd, Henderson, traffic light entrance opposite Pak N Save, “entrance through the muli-storey brick building at the end of the drive”
- please pay in advance to:
- Adrienne Coats 837 1507
- Paul Long 818 3874
- Khun Aung 630 8975
- David Thorpe 826 0864
If anyone needs lift from over our way please contact me!
There are two new posts on the Partners blog, both muse on different aspects of providing assistance to cyclone victims. Kath (in the context of underlining how the presence of foreigners can help) tells a heartbreaking story:
What difference could one person like me make? One distraught woman, of a similar age to me, shared how she had heard her mother calling for help from the rice field but both her and her husband were carrying two of their children each trying to keep all heads above the rising water
and were unable to go to her aid. This family lost their home and all of their belongings but fortunately all of their children miraculously survived. However now they are grieving the loss of their mother and grandmother. Who else around her had the strength to listen to her tell
her story over again as if it was the first time, when everyone else had their own tragic story? Instead God supplied the ears of an Australian. I offered reassurance that she had made the right choice as a mother, a gentle squeeze of the hand and a prayer of blessing over their new home and her family. I attempted to instill hope that many on the other side of the world are being moved into action to pray, to give, and to be a voice for the suffering people of Burma.
While Ruth herself, in a longer post mentions the necessarily unsung heros:
those working in Burma, of aid getting through to the survivors despite all the obstacles, and of the brave local community leaders who have been delivering the aid despite the threat of imprisonment or even death at the hand of the military regime.
We may not hear their stories, we certainly won’t know their names, but we should pray for these people, their love and determination in the face of a cruel and powerful “government” is making all the difference in a disaster that has hit the delta region worse than the tsunami did.