Two days ago Tenzin and her cousin arrived, commencing the second half of our project. We took a trip out to a city called No Bo to visit the niece and nephew of a staff member along with a few heavenly home children.
After 2 hours of riding through bumps, hills, and unexpected mud–elephant poop– and the occasional heavily armed soldier we arrived at No Bo. I believe it is north of Mae Sot and it is possible to see what were once sentry buildings for Thai soldiers during the Burmese civil war since Burma is located just across a short river.
When we met a staff member’s nephew and niece (I will keep their names private for security) they were just coming back from the jungle where they had collected bamboo shoots for our lunch. After a lunch of pork and green beans and egg curry with rice (delicious!) I was able to interview The wife about her experiences. Her English is absolutely impeccable, mostly because she taught in Yangon at a private school for several years. Though she is from Karen state she says there are many things about the Karen people and their history that she did not know until moving to a refugee camp in Thailand. She says that Burma teaches “lies” for history and she was not aware of the atrocities being committed against her people until moving to Mae La camp, the largest of the 9 refugee camps in Thailand.
Though she no longer lives in the camp, her heart still is with the people. She wants to move back to Pa’An (the Capitol of The Karen State) in a few years when she finishes her teaching program here and hopes to bring the same opportunities she has in Thailand to people in Burma so they don’t have to leave.
Unfortunately though the camps have existed for many years, the number of people living in them has stayed at around a constant 170,000. First driven out by war, many Burmese stay in Thailand now for the economic opportunities– even if that means living in a camp. Previously Burma did not allow people who had lived in the camps to return home and even attacked the camps on several occasions but the rules have weakened to encourage citizens to return. She says the camps are safe now, and even moving to the city in Karen state is safe because of a resistance group called Karen National Union (KNU) but many atrocities are still being committed in rural areas and there are spies in the camps.
The Burmese people in Thailand don’t seem to believe that Aung San Suu Kyi’s role in government means that democracy is real in Burma. In fact, they know the elections are still rigged— but they want to return home and they only want peace. Sadly enough, peace may still be far away despite the recent diplomatic improvements between Myanmar and the USA. But only time will tell!
While at No Bu I also found a Burmese cartoon. It was translated to be a story about a man who goes to a shop for rice and egg and his egg hatches into a chicken– but the kind shopkeeper only charges him the price of egg and rice rather than chicken and rice 🙂 The woman told me some people in Burma do still eat the newly hatched egg, so it’s a cultural norm they joke about (though she seems to oppose it).
Today was my last day teaching the children during this 4-day weekend caused by religious holidays. Tomorrow I return to Love & Care to give two exams (Biology, English) and hear about all their stories of going home!