02/17/2022, 12.17
MYANMAR - THAILAND
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Voices of Burmese refugees who fled to Bangkok

A teacher, a farmer, a father: these are just some of the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled to Thailand to avoid the violence of the Burmese military junta. The Thai authorities are now threatening to expel them. AsiaNews reports on their stories.

A little over a year after the military coup d'état in Burma, repression and warfare have not stopped the opposition, which, after the failure of peaceful protests following the coup, has joined the armed struggle with ethnic militias.

The civil war has spread throughout the country and today no city is spared by the fighting. In December, the military junta bombed for a week Loikaw, capital of Kayah State, where most of the Christian population is concentrated. According to UNHCR, there are over 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), but some tens of thousands have managed to escape to India or Thailand.

The PIME Foundation has decided to open the S145 Emergency Myanmar Fund to support the initiatives of the local Churches in favour of these refugees. The aim of the campaign is to give immediate help to thousands of people, supporting the network of reception facilities that the dioceses of Taungoo and Taunggyi are setting up. Information on how to donate can be found at this link.

The situation is just as difficult for those who have managed to cross Myanmar's borders. Below are the testimonies of some of the Karen refugees in Thailand who were forced to leave their land around the village of Lay Kay Kaw in the Myawady area. They are now living in precarious conditions because they are under threat of deportation from the Thai authorities. Returning home would expose them to reprisals from the military.

"When the fighting started, all I thought about was running, in tears, convinced that I would be killed and that even if I survived I would find myself powerless to rebuild my life because we lost everything. For some time, three families stayed together in the same house without daring to go out, and we could do nothing but encourage each other to pray to God until, fortunately, although separated, we managed to get away. I am 45 years old and originally from the Delta (Irrawaddy) region, but a few years ago I moved to Lay Kay Kaw, which I had to leave because of frequent clashes between the Burmese military camped in the towns and the Karen soldiers living in the mountains.

It is dangerous to come into contact with the regime's military. Before the fighting, they came to search every house, and where there were no heads of families, they smashed doors and windows.

When we left, there were more of us but once we crossed the border, some of us separated and we were left with 29 families with 30 children under 15. We have no medical assistance and for serious cases we have to go to a clinic in Kyaw Keh, Myanmar.

Before I fled, I used to earn my living by cleaning in the hospital, but now I have lost my job and only have my pillows with me. Now I live in Thailand, just across the river, but soon I will be forced to leave like others, because they have given us only a few days to complete the agricultural work of those who have been able to have some land to cultivate during their stay. Any return is unthinkable, because the risk is too high across the border. I have to live separated from my family, with my children still in Myanmar, fleeing the fighting".

 

"I am a Buddhist teacher but my husband is a Christian. On 14 December, when the military entered Lay Kay Kaw and arrested three of my colleagues and a Member of Parliament along with four activists, I was at school for the start of the school year. I couldn't go home so I hid for three hours in a ditch with the children and other teachers.

As soon as the fighting stopped, I decided with my husband to go to a more protected village, Maewahkeh, taking with us only a change of clothes, my phone, some books and some money. After two weeks, on Christmas Day, the soldiers attacked the camp for displaced people where we had found refuge with artillery, drones and helicopters. Everything was in flames and with 200 other people we fled to an area called 'Camp 1' where we stayed for five days and then with the help of Karen soldiers we moved into the forest, but only for a short time, because even they could not guarantee our safety.

In another village we found someone who knew Karen people who had already settled in Thailand and through them we arrived here where we have been for a month, hiding from the Thai authorities. We still feel in danger and are constantly on the alert because we have no documents.

I don't know how to contact my mother and my brother from whom we got separated when we fled and who I know are hiding in the forest near Lay Kay Kaw. In the meantime, I continue to carry out online educational programmes organised by the Ministry of Education of the Government of National Unity, in hiding".

"I am 33 years old and a farmer. I am a Christian and my village is a few kilometres from Loy Kay Kaw, close to where the fighting started. We are in an area controlled by the Karen army, but they often don't intervene so as not to provoke retaliation or the loss of crops for the farmers.

We had to wait sometime after being taken to the riverbank until a village chief on the Thai side took pity on us and arranged for us to cross in a small boat. I crossed the border on 19 December after days of fighting, carrying only a bag for me and my three children, one of whom is a baby. We are now hiding in a house in the village with other women and children.

I left behind the maize and pulses I could not harvest and I am worried because if the Burmese military burns the harvest I will lose a year's income.

We would like to go back but those of us who went back to observe the situation saw the military even closer and reported that they were shooting people. The Karen army advises us not to go back but some have not been able to do otherwise in order to harvest what has matured in the fields. For us, the situation is complicated by the fact that I am the wife of a Karen soldier and if we return home, we could be killed.”

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See also
Bangkok: growing number of Burmese refugees at the border
03/01/2022 14:01
Monks flee fighting in Kayah State
17/01/2022 14:13
As civil war rages, ruling junta destroys about a hundred religious buildings
29/03/2022 17:03
Chin refugees flee to India as the number of dead and prisoners rises
19/05/2021 12:20
New protests in Bangkok as hundreds of students demand the government's resignation
24/07/2020 13:20


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