Burma Border

5 Nov

Hey all,

I’m spending the next (few months/year?) working as a teacher in Mae La, the largest Burmese refugee camp in Thailand.

Photo taken from someone's flick'r

Today marks the end of my first week in country, which has been spent in orientation with my host organization, so I have little of any value to report. Instead of using this as a sort of journal recounting my various experiences eating bugs (tbd), getting Dengue fever (hoping i dont) and failing as a teacher, I want to use this as a place to post interesting articles, videos, photos, etc, about Burma and Burmese refugees in particular.

First:

Spies! Suspicions! Security.

I will not be posting photographs of any of the Burmese I wind up working with or talking to, nor will I be revealing any names. When I do use names they will be pseudonyms. This is because the security threat facing the refugees here on the border is very real. The Burmese government sends spies across the border to report back the names of those who have fled. This can cause major issues for those who return to Burma or the families and friends of those remaining in the country. It seems ridiculous, and I still have trouble with the idea. However, nearly everyone who has been here for a month or more has encountered a spy (one teacher even had a spy posing as a student in class!)

Additionally, the legal situation for those refugees living outside of the camps is tenuous at best. They are not legally allowed to be here, and I am not legally allowed to be working with them. For this reason I will not be giving the name of the organizations I work with or encounter while here.

Election: November 7th, 2010

For the first time since 1990, when the Military Junta ignored the landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party and continued ruling the country like a bunch of assholes, Burma is having an election. International election monitors? Nope. Opposition? Well, kinda-sorta…but not really. Chance of positive change? This seems to be the big question.

1. Interesting WSJ Article/Interactive-Video On the Upcoming elections in Burma. This article presents a more nuanced view of the possible impacts of the election, understandably, than the more radicalized view I have encountered in discussions with ex-pats working with refugees here in Mae Sot, and with the few Burmese in Thailand with whom I’ve spoken. This is because the elections pose a unique threat to the refugees and migrant workers here in Thailand. Recently the Thai foreign minister was quoted saying that he is planning to “launch a more comprehensive program for the Myanmar people in the camps, the displaced, the intellectuals who run around the streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai province, to return to Myanmar after the elections.” It appears that this is unlikely, but the threat of some action on the Thai side is definitely real. More on this…

2. New York Times on upcoming election

 

Interesting Burma Related Organizations

1. Assistance Association For Political Prisoners

2. Thailand Burma Border Consortium

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One Response to “Burma Border”

  1. Kathy November 9, 2010 at 1:51 am #

    A special treat for anyone considering law school… 🙂

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