Why are there Burmese refugees? Part II: Letter from a student

31 Jan

By definition the camp can never be someone’s home. Even if you imagine that the fences and Thai Military checkpoints evaporated you are still stuck, stateless and unwanted, unable to go home unless the 60+ year long civil war that continues a mere five miles away ends (and ends with a result that is positive for your side!) and unable to move anywhere else unless you win the visa lottery and get a ticket to a cushy 3rd country (where you are unlikely to find the comforts of fishpaste, a shared language or social identity).

So why choose limbo?

My student wrote me the following letter explaining this choice and told me I could share it with you.

I want to tell you about Mae La Refugee Camp


(I cannot write her name here for security reasons)

I want to tell you about Maela Refugee camp, the place where I feel most safe. Because I have the opportunity to study and live safely. We are supported by many NGOs. They give us rations and many things like blankets, clothes, soap, roves and bamboo to rebuild houses. We have free education and we see many foreigners help us, educate us to get education and become friend with us. I’m so happy about it, because we never saw foreigners before. We have a lot of security in camp. We have much school. We can talk freely about government/ political.

In our village we have only a primary school and two teachers. If the SPDC comes to our village our school closes and we have to flee to the jungle. One day when the SPDC came to our village there was a woman who was about to give birth. She was unable to walk. So she couldn’t flee to the jungle. The SPDC saw her and shot. We have no opportunity and no security. They also forced villagers to become porter. The porter had to carry food and do what the SPDC said/ordered. Often they were ordered to walk in front of the SPDC and would get cought on landmines. Some died; some lost legs and went blind. The soldiers didn’t give enough food to the porter. Sometimes they would have to work for two (or) three weeks before they could go back to the village. We’ve faced many problems. And then if they saw our food, they took it and destroyed it. So we have to put our rice in tins and bury them underground.

Many people are uneducated. They love their homeland so much. Some villagers in Karen state are near Refugee Camps. So they can flee to the camps. But our village is very far from the camps. If you walk on foot you have to walk for a month. If you want to get by car it is very expensive and it takes 5 days to get here. Many people in our village can’t come here.

When I lived in Burma it was like living in the dark. I’m thankful God sent me here. But my family is in Burma. I think they face many problems, but I can’t help them now. Sometimes I miss my family so much. When I think of them, I feel sad and disappointed. I want to stay with my family and talk with them and to be happy. But I didn’t have a chance. Now I stay with my aunt. I hate fighting. I want my country to be peaceful so I can go back to my village. But one thing that I can do is try hard and not give up in my studies.  I want to continue to study but I have many difficulties. I need you to give me advice and encouragement to help me over come my problems. So Maela Refugee camp is the place that I feel most safe.


One Response to “Why are there Burmese refugees? Part II: Letter from a student”


  1. Why live behind the wire? | Teaching OT in faraway places - January 30, 2011

    […] is an excellent post “Why are there Burmese refugees? Part II: Letter from a student” that describes life in Burma under the military and explains why som eone might prefer to […]

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