by Cha Cha, Peace Intern to Burma from KSCF
Mea la camp is the biggest camp in the border line between Thailand with Myanmar. There are about 5,000 refugees staying at this camp. I was a bit scared with the idea of going to this camp. But when I arrived at the refugee camp, my apprehensions were proved to be baseless. I saw a big market there and a lot of schools for them. It was more like a country village. There, I visited Karen Women’s Organization (KWO). This organization works for the holistic development of the 5-6 zones of mea la camp. One of big problem faced by the women in the camp is the sexual violence by men. It happens very often—both inside and outside their homes. In order to protect the women from the sexual violence, the KWO have deployed trained women in creating awareness and campaigning on the streets. However, the women were continued to be sexually abused. As a next step, the KWO is constructing 2 shelter homes for them. I hope with the collective efforts of the government and organizations like the KWO the women in this refugee camp will be able to lead a life with dignity.
After the Thai journey, I left for Myanmar. Visiting Hlaing Thayar had another impact on me. The issue here is of ethnic problem. Many factories being in the vicinity there were several labour zones. These zones are adjacent to the Yangon City. Their standard of living was very low. I felt they were poorer than the refugees of the Mea la camp. Now a days there are more NGO activities then before. My mind was so disturbed and I was so very sad.
I visited one house. There lived a woman with her 7 daughters living in a small bamboo house. But this house also doesn’t belong to them, as in the government records it’s shown illegal. Two years ago, her husband left her and married to another woman. Her older daughter is now 15 years old and is prone to exploitations. I asked her, has she taken any legal action against her husband? But she did not have enough money to pursue any legal action. Her salary was less than 30,000 kyat (about 30 dollars) for one month. When I asked the first daughter about her future plans, she answered me that she wants to be a pharmacist after studying in the university. She wanted the good time to come back when her mother and father were together. Tears rolling down her chicks when she was telling this to me. It’s too difficult for a young girl of 15 to face the hard realities of the society.
Under the military regime, people are living in such pathetic conditions. It’s not a mere minority/ethnic problem. These people are living without any support from the government. In fact the Government avoided supporting NGOs in order to hide this situation. Who can wipe those tears? Who can talk on their behalf towards enabling them to lead a life with basic amenities and dignity?