The Border Crisis

The Border Crisis

On September 12th 2016 armed conflict broke out in Karen State of Myanmar between a split group of DKBA and the Myanmar Government Army.

The initial affected area in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa An District but has since spread over a larger area between Hliangbwe and Phapun townships. This has come when many villages are also experiencing food shortages, and farmers are unable to work in the fields due to the fighting and landmines placed by the DKBA split group.
This follows after decades of violence between the Karen National Union (KNU) and Burmese Army that has caused tens of thousands of Karen and Burmese people to flee to refugee camps in Thailand.

Karen villagers at the distribution point.

Photograph by Sarawut Tummati

Fighting has been significantly increasing in recent weeks and this has caused a displacement crisis. An estimated 3,800 individuals have now been displaced, forced to reside in the jungle along the Thai-Myanmar border. Initially these people were able to slip into the refugee camps in Thailand, though as numbers kept increasing the Thai Military closed the border and now they must make do in Myanmar. However, as the situation becomes more desperate, refugees may resort to drastic measures to survive which puts themselves and others at risk.
ADRA enacted emergency protocol alongside other NGOs coordinating through the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), gathering funds from the ADRA Asia Regional Office, ADRA International and the Thailand Adventist Mission (TAM). We are working with NGOs and local authorities to supply aid. After an assessment of the situation, ADRA Thailand agreed to supply 120 bags of rice, tarps and mosquito nets, which helped approximately 748 individuals. The team travelled from Mae Sot on the 26th September to the distribution site, and hired boats to get the goods across the river as this was the only way to reach the affected areas; each boat could only carry 40 bags of rice so 3 boats were used. On the 27th they handed out the supplies to 120 families

Karen Refugees wait to be given supplies.

Photograph by Sarawut Tummati

ADRA distributes tarps, pots, rice and mosquito nets to the displaced families.

Photograph by Sarawut Tummati

After consideration ADRA Thailand agreed to supply 120 bags of rice, tarps and mosquito nets, which helped approximately 748 individuals. The team travelled from Mae Sot on the 26th September to the distribution site, and hired boats to get the goods across the river as this was the only way to reach the affected areas; each boat could only carry 40 bags of rice so 3 boats were used. On the 27th they handed out all of the supplies in 2 location, and ADRA is now evaluating if there is even more that can be accomplished with any extra funding provided.

Hopefully this will get some families through a few hard months before they decide what their next move is going to be. A big ThankYou to the distribution team at ground level and programs team for getting the relief effort moving so quickly, and to the Donors for their support.

Electrical Interns

Electrical Interns

In a recent interview we caught up with some Interns at an Electrical store in Mae Sot. Here they have been learning to fix equipment and the basics of customer service.

The shop is currently offering three refugees a placement in their storefront. These men were forced to leave their homes from varying degrees of violence and hostility in their respective states or followed their families as they were children at the time of departure, and live in one of the refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border. One of the men has been in the camp since 2000, some 16 years that has been filled with a longing to return to some semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately he was gone when the UN came to issue Thai documentation and so was left behind as those sought work elsewhere with their new IDs and a chance at freedom. When asked what the hardest part of living in a refugee camp was they mentioned the lack of jobs, doing any kind of business and just going about day to day activities. However they do appreciate the free health facilities, training and education, which would be difficult to access without a fair amount of funds in Myanmar.

Interns examine a broken fridge.

Photograph by Brittanie McLean

The interns have been involved in in the Vocational Training project since ZOA, 2013 and 2016 respectively; and between them they have completed Motorcycle Repair, Hotel Management, Construction, Computer Skills, Cutting and Electrical Repair courses. Electrical Repair seems to be the favourite, however they enjoyed learning new skills in every course. They would like to see ADRA offer more advanced skill VT courses that build upon the current trainings, as this would expand opportunities even further; and extend the time in order to create more practice sessions to cement the knowledge and skills.

The team are thoroughly enjoying their time at shop, finding nothing they dislike and every task approached with positive attitudes. The job involves repairing washing machines, fridges and other small electrical appliances; anything that is too difficult they observe. There are so many electrical devices it would be nearly impossible to learn everything in one month (the length of the internship), and so one of the interns has chosen to focus on one or two items to get well accustomed to repairing them. After the internship they plan to study more and figure out ways to deal with the supply and demand of parts; which is difficult to acquire in the camps. Future goals include opening electrical businesses and finding permanent places to call home outside of camp. We hope these goals can be accomplished with the help of ADRAs training programs.

Interns from Mae La Refugee Camp.

Photograph by Brittanie McLean

The Life of Best

The Life of Best

The Ngow River flows through the Yao and Pha Mon mountains of the Wiang Kaen district, with a story of a girl that washes them in darkness and sorrow.

Best comes from the Kamu hill tribe. A young impressionable girl who would be fated to lose everything when first her father; and then mother succumbed to HIV/AIDS. Luckily, the Keep Girls Safe project administered by ADRA Thailand would take her away from such heartache.
Under the protection of KGS since 2006 when she was a grade 2 student, things have improved dramatically. She is now even able to go home in the school breaks. At the shelter she performs many house chores such as cooking rice, washing clothes, planting vegetables and more; perhaps a way to erase unpleasant memories and plant fresh ones.
The tale of her past begins with her father; a Laotian; who after marrying her stateless mother, died of HIVAIDS. After her father’s death, Best lived with her mother, who re-married, a Thai man. The husband had a previous child, “Pha”, younger than Beer by three years. It was soon obvious where favour lay and she faced heavy discrimination while living with her mother’s new family. Such hardships only increased with time and when her mother passed away; she was left alone and unwanted in a family who did little to acknowledge her existence. She did not understand why this was happening; and was left yearning for a loving embrace.

Best (right) and a fellow KGS shelter member.

Photograph by Rodolfo Mansalve

If things were tough until this point, they soon became worse. For her stepfather remarried a woman from Laos; packaged with four children of her own. An utterly mystified Best watched on; there was no longer a place for her in this home. She was not a biological child; she was nothing but an eyesore to them. They physically and verbally assaulted her with little reasoning. The scars became much deeper than skin level.
Today, Best is with the KGS project, a warm-hearted foster home that takes care of 27 girls from remote areas who are at high risk of human trafficking. These girls have been through unrelentingly harsh circumstances, often orphaned or homeless. The KGS shelter provides that warm embrace Best was seeking; for all the girls who find their way to them. Best is currently a third year student at a vocational school, majoring in design and she hopes to study Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University or Lanna Rajabhat University. Her talent is to design. She helps design the workshop’s stages including leading a reaction session of a workshop. She sings and plays the guitar and piano with her peers and at church as well. These activities are an inspiration for her to seek a better life for the future.

This summer, she is a volunteer with the Stateless Project. She is enthusiastic to learn and help people who are negatively impacted by being stateless; this is her story as well. Best owns an ID card where the number starts with “0”; the code for a stateless person. She understands the difficulties of being stateless first hand; she is willing to help as much as she possibly can.
Best also takes very good care of the girls who recently moved into the foster home because she knows what it is like being unwanted and depressed; she never wants anyone to feel like this when she can help them.
Best’s life is slowly but surely turning for the better. The Ngow River continues to run through the Yao and Pha Mon mountains. Best, who was once a miserable little girl, has become a strong support to her new family in this imperfect society.
Kindly join us to support Best who has successfully conquered her miserable life.

A Fresh Lease

The Community Sensitisation Project started in October 2015 and is concentrated at providing stateless people with official documentation that recognises them as a Thai Citizen. People who are stateless lack access to basic healthcare; have difficulty acquiring employment and are unable to travel out of their districts.

Since then it has impacted many lives, including that of Mia, a young girl from the Acha Tribe. Mia was born in the Mae Fa Luang District and is also part of the Keep Girls Safe Project, who came to the shelter when she was nine years old. She has three older sisters, two of which live with her mother.  Mias relationship with her mother has been tense for a long time; when she was little her mother got remarried and left her & her sisters with a mentally ill Uncle who was extremely poor and had no income. None of Mias family have a Thai ID and this creates extra pressure on the family. Mia used to stay with her sister when she went home to visit her family while living at KGS, because her mother would not welcome her or the KGS staff. Even when Mia gets to go home she needs to have an ADRA staff member with her as the project is in a different area and without a Thai ID she cannot leave the district.

Fortunately, the CSP project has been able to help Mia’s family with Thai Citizenship. Her sister was given a Thai ID in December, now she can travel locally or abroad and access government subsidies. Her mother was also provided with a Thai ID in February which has made her much more friendly towards the ADRA staff, and now Mia can stay with her when she visits. The staff have created a mutual understanding with the mother in relation to Mia and now she can spend quality time with her mother. Her other two sisters have also submitted applications and are now waiting to see what happens.

Currently, CSP staff are in the process of getting Mia her Thai ID. There have been many difficulties in doing so as they need documentation and witnesses that Mia has been at KGS the whole time and not elsewhere. Unfortunately, all staff at her previous school have retired and the shelter has since moved locations; and so finding witnesses is tricky.

Staff are working with Mae Fa Luang offices and Chiang Rai City Hall to acquire evidence so their claim can be substantiated. Mia was however able to get her birth certificate, which is a step in the right direction and hopefully will help in her battle to be recognised as a Thai Citizen. Something she should not have to be doing, but has been easier thanks to the CSP team, their hard work and Mia’s smiling face.