Photo: Umpiam Mai refugee camp in Umphang.

Helping the Karen of Burma

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It was a frigid winter day in the US state of Vermont when I first met with a recently resettled refugee family back in 2008. The resettlement program had told me they were Burmese, so I was confused when only one 17-year old family member could understand what was written in an English-Burmese phrasebook. I soon learned how they were part of the ethnic Karen minority, displaced by the world's longest-running civil war.

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The family of five fled their home village in the mountainous Burma-Thailand border region 10 years earlier when it was attacked and torched by the Burmese military. With a two-year-old in tow, they escaped to Thailand by way of a dangerous path through the jungle, travelling only under the cover of darkness. If the Burmese army had caught them, they would have likely been put to forced labour, possibly as landmine detectors, or ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 900 words.)


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