Sunday, 21 November 2010

Goodbye Say Hei...amazing woman!

Goodbye Say Hei on PhotoPeach

So our amazing Say Hei has gone ... and I've had a weekend to think about the magic moments of Say Hei's time in Campie School. Here's some of them.

Magic Moment 1
On Friday I took Say Hei over from my house to the beach. As we went down steps to the beach, she was nervous. " I afraid." No it's OK Say Hei. I took her arm and we walked onto the sand. The sea was far out so we walked half way towards it. "Stop. I afraid. When sea comes... it comes fast or slow?" She thought the sea was going to rush in and drown us. It was so so funny and she was so excited that in her 50s, she had been to the sea for the first time in her life. What a privilege to share that moment with her. She's got the photo sadly.

Magic/Tragic Moment 2
Driving past the sea near Levenhall, she said, "My sister, you very lucky. Every day you go to school you see this beautiful sea. Every day I go to my school, I see Thai police arresting my Burmese people."

Magic Moment 3
Say Hei, Marc and Fraser from P7 and I went to meet Don Ledingham at East Lothian Headquarters. The boys impressed all of us with their knowledge and understanding of the plight of the Burmese people. Later, Say Hei said "Your students have many rights... rights to speak to the leader. My students have no rights. One day, I hope my students will have rights as yours."

Magic Moment 4
Apart from the entire ceilidh being an incredibly magic moment where parents, staff, children and visitors all mingled beautifully. In her speech (which you can see on, Say Hei said, "I never thought in my life that I would ever be in your country."

Magic Moment 5
On the last night, Fiona O' Donnell (East Lothian MP) coming to listen to Say Hei and Paw Ray tell her about their situation. Paw Ray had been in Glasgow and returned with 2 new friends who drove her back. Then there were 10 in the house and the conversation became more and more obscure. Fiona turned round and said, "Being in your house is like being on another planet!" It was a huge complement.

Magic Moment 6
Later that evening, Gaynor and I had unpacked Say Hei's suitcase 3 times trying to get everything she'd been given by Campie into her baggage allowance. Gaynor had to stay so long that we all had a chippy tea. After a long time, Seth said to Gaynor, "Mum we need to go home. We've been here 5 hours." Then he looked at his ex headteacher, remembered his lovely manners and said, "But it's been really good!"

Magic Moment 7
At Edinburgh Airport at 4.30am on Saturday, Say Hei's baggage allowance was 23 Kg. Her bag weighed in at 30 Kg and the second bag that Campie were paying for was 7 Kg. So Gaynor and I unpacked her bag, moving Campie's letters for CDC and Louise Laing's Heinz tomato soup into the little bag. The queue behind us were not impressed but we were giggling our heads off. And surely this has to be the most obscure but effective example of excellence in a headteacher and the chair of a Parent Council working together! I mean 4am on a Saturday morning! (although that is why neither of us made it to the Musselburgh Community Planning event at 10am. Sorry, folks.)

So many others, Sarah Boyack showing the Scottish Parliament, watching her horror as we ate ice cream, visiting our Burmese refugee student friends at Newbattle Abbey College, waking up to the smell of Burmese breakfast cooking, Campie children saying bye to Say Hei and much more.

Say Hei, you came and gave us so much. Thank you Amazing Lady.

Sheila Laing

If you have any magic Say Hei moments yourself, put them in a comment or send them to us and we'll blog them.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pudsey and Ceilidh

Today Pudsey came to Campie and surprised the children ... and Say Hei and Paw Ray.

Tonight we had a brilliant ceilidh for Say Hei and Paw Ray and our friends.

Pudsy and Ceilidh on PhotoPeach

A row from Louise

Just got a huge row from Louise for not telling her that the photos of Say Hei are on the Campie School website on

Sorry, if you go to Campie School website and click on Burma on the right hand side, you will see all the posts about Burma and Say Hei. I think I better put them on here too.... but right now I am going to the Scottish Burma Ceilidh at Campie Primary School at 7pm. Watch this space, photos to follow.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

News from Waley, Thailand.

Report from a friend in Thailand, "All the refugees in Waley who came as a result of fighting on Sunday night were sent back by the Thai authorities at 9 am this morning." The refugees did not want to return because they were frightened and were forced to go back to Burma against their will. This is very distressing.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Go back to Burma!

On the Irawaddy we read, "The Thai army has announced that it will not allow Burmese villagers to cross the border again if hostilities resume. Observers say this policy is a result of a request by the Burmese government to the Thais to deny shelter to Burmese refugees, and a Burmese demand that the Thai authorities pay 100,000 baht (US $3,000) compensation for any Burmese citizen killed on Thai soil."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Burmese Headteachers visit to Scottish Parliament

Today, Say Hei and Paw Ray visited the Scottish Parliament. Sarah Boyack, MSP and BEST trustee (Burma Educational Scholarship Trust) showed us round and gave us an explanation of how the Parliament works. She spoke about the transparency and accountability of the Scottish Parliament and of its commitment to equality. Say Hei and Paw Ray were very impressed but so sad because Burma is exactly the opposit of this, as the recent elections in Burma show.
(PS Our headteachers are actually Karen ethnic group not Burmese.)

More fighting on the Thai Burma border

Today our Karen headteachers heard that there is more fighting on the border and more people are running away into Thailand. Many of the local Burmese and Karen people and organisations are trying to help them even though the Thai authorities want the new refugees to return to Burma. The situation is very tense and fearful.
We read on that...
"...More than 400 villagers fled late on Sunday night from the town of Valley, which straddles the Thai-Burmese border, following a resumption of hostilities between Burmese government forces and breakaway Brigade 5 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), according to Thai authorities.
We are all so joyful at Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom and it's amazing to hear her dignified and courageous speeches. However, let's keep remembering the poor Burmese and Karen people who struggle every day to survive in poverty, hunger and fear.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Fear behind the celebrations

We have joined in with the joy in Burma and Mae Sot at Aung San Suu Kyi's release. However, the reality of the fear Burmese and Karen people live with on a daily basis, hit home to us on Saturday.

We received this report from a good and reliable friend in Mae Sot.

In the meantime, the situation here is still really bad. Now the Thais really don't want any refugees here, they are forcibly sending people back. Yesterday there was reports of large numbers of people strung out along the river banks of Burma unable to cross but fearful of being in Burma so just hiding out under trees along the river bank. The Thai authorities are blocking aid. People who return are being recruited as porters, men, women and children. The SPDC (Burmese Army) has brought in thousands more troops to the area, and are determined to wipe out any opposition. Fighting is breaking out, lots more landmines have been laid and people are on the move in desperate need of safety.

We are sending out food, blankets, water, hygiene kits, maternity kits and baby kits. There are women close to delivery, brand new babies, elderly and disabled included of course in these populations. The Thais are not allowing international NGOs access to sites so everyone is relying on us to get stuff to the right people. "us" is merely a community network of Burmese people, healthworkers, monks, teachers, market people, activists etc.........using the networks to get people what they need. The whole Burmese community in Thailand has opened up their doors and is taking care of people - in villages three or four families are staying with
each village house. They are not relatives of each other - just people are looking after each others. Villagers may be looking after people at great personal risk since in some villages, the authorities have announced that anyone caught harboring refugees will be arrested.
So in the midst of the jubliation that Aung San Suu Kyi is free, let's help out our friends who are giving so much to help those in fear and remember there are still 2200 political prisoners in Burma's jails.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday Sightseeing and Shopping!

Say Hei Sightseeing on PhotoPeach

Some fresh, windy Scottish air was in store for our Burmese teacher Say Hei today. We picked her up bright and early at Sheila's house and whisked her off in a whirlwind tour of East Lothian and Edinburgh.
We fitted in Gullane bents - to watch the brave (or crazy) kite surfers - , Direlton and Tantallon Castles - from the outside, North Berwick beach, Phantassie Dovocot and Preston Mill, Asda, Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh Castle and Saint Giles Cathedral!!!
Wow what a day! Can't say we don't know how to treat our visitors. If Say Hei does not sleep soundly tonight I shall eat my hat!

She's free at last!

At 11am (UK time), Saturday 13 November 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi has been released after a total of 15 years and 20 days. She said to the huge crowd of people outside her house, "We must work together in unity to achieve her goal." She's gone back inside her house but will speak to the people at 12 tomorrow (5am UK time) from her party's headquarters - the National League of Democracy.
Burma Campaign UK has released this statement, "Burma Campaign UK today welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but warned that the release should not be interpreted as a sign that democratic reform is on the way. Burma Campaign UK also called for the immediate release of 2,202 political prisoners who remain in detention."

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Scotsman on Friday, The Times on Saturday

Today, Say Hei was on page 24 of The Scotsman newspaper, talking about the current situation in Mae Sot. Gaynor Allen, Campie Parent Council Chair, wrote the article and we really want to thank you Gaynor for using your skill and talent to share Say Hei's story with the world. After Nicky Orr, another Campie mum tweeted Gordon and Sarah Brown last week, Gaynor's also tapping on Gordon Brown's door but he's not answered.... yet! She's a persistent woman mind, so you never know...

Tomorrow The Times are doing a feature on our Burmese friends too so look out for that.

Today, Say Hei spent time talking to a group of Campie parents about her Karen people and about the situation in Burma and in CDC School. She had hoped her translator, Khaing, would be available but she managed just fine without him. Her English has amazed us this trip. She can say most of the things she wants to say and she is becoming really confident to speak to people.

She spent the day in P1 with Teacher Kat and in P5 with Mrs Polley. You can see those photos on Then tonight teachers from Campie and Forthview with some Campie parents enjoyed a meal with Say Hei and with Ko Htike and Win Maung Thein, our Burmese student friends from Newbattle Abbey College. It was lovely to relax though Say Hei was very sleepy. The TV was on in the Thai restaurant and our noisy table went very quiet when BBC24 put on a feature about Aung San Suu Kyi. It showed Zoya Phan of Burma Campaign UK and Headteacher Paw Ray was staying with Zoya in London tonight. She returns to Scotland tomorrow, having had a busy but rewarding trip to London to secure funding for the dry food programme to feed the migrant children.

We had a false alarm at Campie today. Ms Laing got a text that Aung San Suu Kyi had been released at 10am UK time. It was from a very good source so she ran into the P1 open plan area, shouting excitedly to Sey Hei and the children that ASSK had been released. The P1 children began to clap, which was just beautiful. Later we found out that ASSK was still not released.

Tonight Ko Htike explained (and we also read this in the Guardian) that her release papers were served but there were conditions restricting her movements and restricting who she could speak to, so Aung San Suu Kyi refused to leave her home. We await tomorrow's events with great interest, excitement and concern.

Tomorrow, Teachers Kat, Alicia and Hannah are taking Say Heh shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh. Pat Boone records, christmas cards and board games for her boarding house students are on Say Hei's shopping list. Ms Laing's staying in bed...ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Will Aung San Suu Kyi be released today?

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will apparently be set free on Friday. Burmese authorities entered Suu Kyi’s lakeside house on University Avenue at 12 p.m., reportedly to deliver a release warrant, according local journalists who are waiting outside her compound. “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and authorities seemed to be talking in the house after the release warrant was read and she is likely to come out of the compound at 4:00 pm,” said a reporter outside her residence. “Her party (NLD) invited journalists in Rangoon for a press conference at 5 p.m

Paw Ray in London and Say Hei in Wallyford

Andrew Scadding of Thai Children's Trust sent this letter that Paw Ray had published in The Times today. Paw Ray has been very busy in London speaking to organisations that might help Burmese migrant children in Mae Sot. She's also met up with some dear Karen friends that she has not seen for years, Zoya Phan and another young woman.

Say Hei went to Wallyford Primary School today to meet Teacher Hannah. Her P4 class gave Say Hei a lovely welcome and tour of their school. They were so fast at picking up information about Burma. Thank you Wallyford.

Gaynor Allen is Chair of Campie Parent Council and also a journalist. She has interviewed Say Hei and sent an article to The Times and The Scotsman so keep your eyes open for this.

Aung San Suu Kyi update

Kim Aris, the younger son of Aung San Suu Kyi, reportedly applies for a visa to visit his mother in Rangoon.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wednesday in Mae Sot

The news we hear today is that the Burmese army have retaken Myawaddy and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army have retreated to the outskirts of Myawaddy. The Thai army are sending the people back to Myawaddy but many people are afraid to return. reports,

'All Refugees Returned to Myawaddy
MAE SOT — All refugees who did not return to Myawaddy on Tuesday were sent back by Thai authorities Wednesday morning. Thai authorities said the process came after agreement was reached with Burmese counterparts led by Col Khin Maung Htay. But social workers here said some refugees are still hiding in rice fields along the Moei river. In Myawaddy, authorities collected a list of those who fled to Thailand during the fighting. One Burmese official in the town said the order to do so came from the regional military command.'

Another report said, “The town was silent when we went back this morning, but there were soldiers searching for explosive devices. Then we heard the soldiers wanted porters, so we come back to the Thai side,” said Han Sein (not his real name), a retire civil servant from Myawaddy, speaking to The Irrawaddy on the bank of the Moei River, which separates Thailand and Burma.
“I saw that some of the shops—particularly the phone shops—had been looted, but I have no idea who did it,” he said, adding that this was the worst incident he had experienced since moving to Myawaddy in 1992.
While many local residents have returned to the town to check their property, many others say they are still too worried about their personal safety to remain there.
“After I got back to my house, I cooked some rice. Then I saw that some people were running away to escape being recruited as porters, so I also came back to Thailand,” said Daw Yee, 74. “I am worried about my home, but right now, safety is my main concern.”
Many who have returned to the Thai side of the border have taken shelter in local monasteries or in houses near the river. Others are said to be hiding in the woods around the Thai border town of Mae Sot.
“I feel the situation in the town is still uncertain. That's why I decided to come to Thailand this morning,” said Ba Maung, 84, who was taken to the Mao Tao clinic in Mae Sot after he arrived on the Thai side. “I was at a monastery during the fighting on Monday.”
Thai soldiers at the Thai-Burmese Friendship Bridge between Mae Sot and Myawaddy said they could understand why the refugees were nervous. “The opposite side of the river is too quiet. It's not normal. Something could happen at anytime,” said one Thai sergeant at the bridge.
However, local authorities in Mae Sot are struggling to deal with the influx of thousands of refugees and are eager to see the situation return to normal as quickly as possible. Thai officials and NGO workers said there were only 13 toilets for about 20,000 refugees who arrived on Monday and Tuesday.

The Mae Tao Clinic have launched an appeal to support the efforts to feed and house and help the refugees from Myawaddy. There are many remaining in Mae Sot.

For details of Say Hei's day in Campie, see Campie website on

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Say Hei's Tuesday in Scotland

Say Hei and Paw Ray went to bed on Monday at 8pm. They were so tired but they woke up at 2am! So at 5am, they were in the Headteacher's kitchen cooking rice and chicken. Ms Laing snored through it all!

Say Hei's Tuesday in Campie on PhotoPeach

Paw Ray went to London today to speak to important people about helping the Burmese and Karen families living in Thailand. So Say Hei came to Campie for the first time.

Ms Laing and Say Hei took all morning to meet 14 of Campie's 18 classes. Say Hei loved the bright classrooms and could not believe that in P2 the children had 5 jotters for their work. In CDC, they only have 1. In CDC the children sit on benches and each class has 42 children so the children are squashed together on the benches.

In the afternoon, you can see Khaing Maung Maung came to assemblies to interpret for Say Hei. P4-7 listened superbly as they always do when they hear about Burma. Khaing, Say Hei and Ms Laing told them about the Karen and Burmese armies fighting in Myawaddy, near Mae Sot. We are glad that Say Hei's boarding house girls are all safe and living in CDC just now. She told us they've been cooking food for the new refugees.

What impressed Say Hei most was the excellent questions Campie children asked her. Some were so difficult to answer but Khaing helped us in the afternoon. Questions like...

Q. Do you have a pet?
Q. How many children do you have?
Q. Do you like Burma or Thailand best?
Q. Do you think in Burmese or English, Khaing?
Q. Do the children play football?
Q Does anyone in Burma make a sacrifice for others?
Q. Why did you come to Thailand?
Q Did the soldiers see you come to Thailand?
Q Were you afraid?
Q. How many students in your school?
Q. When did the trouble start in Burma?
Q. Would you fight the soldiers?
Q. When will the fighting stop?
Q. Are you cold?
Q. Are you tired?
Q What writing do children do in CDC?

and on and on and on and .... just brilliant... well done Campie kids.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Trouble in Myawaddy

Say Hei and Paw Ray woke this morning to very worrying news from Mae Sot. Overnight there had been fighting in Myawaddy, just across the river and some crossfire had hit some Thai people on the Mae Sot side.

CDC school and the other migrant schools have been asked to close by the Thai Police to keep everyone safe. CDC tried to evacuate Say Hei's boarding house but the boarding house is right on the road to the bridge so the Thai Police wouldn't let people out. However Say Hei spoke to teacher Myo Nyunt and was satisfied that all her boarders were safe.

After Dr Cynthia told the volunteers the school was closed, Louise went to see if she could help with the stream of people fleeing into Mae Sot. The police were directing them to a big field near the bus station, near CDC school and Mae Tao Clinic.

Louise told me, "People from Myawaddy were all just sitting there on bits of cardboard in this huge field. They'd run away from Burma across the river with nothing and they were sat there feeding their babies. They were happy to be out of Myawaddy and glad to have somewhere to camp with their families. One woman was sitting wanting to go into the queue for food but she couldn't go because there was nobody to watch her baby. She told me she was a teacher in Myawaddy but here she was sitting in a field with nothing. It was mayhem. I helped by handing out water to people. The Thai police were being very kind to the people and the Red Cross were giving them food and water. I felt so horrible to leave to go home. Tonight it will be cold, about 16 degrees and they are all sitting in that field with no shelter."
She's written more on

Sunday, 7 November 2010

From Mae Sot to Edinburgh - they did it!

4pm on Sunday 7 November 2010 was a wonderful moment. Say Hei and Paw Ray came through the International Arrival door, exhausted but safe. I was getting quite worried because their flight landed at 3.35pm but they weren't coming through the arrival door. That was because customs opened their suitcases and checked everything. Makes you cross doesn't it?

But they are here and we are so happy to have them with us. It was 4 degrees centigrade outside so we had the heating on full blast and our house was like toast. All the Scots in the house were sweating but Paw Ray still had her big coat on! I think they're OK now though.
We had a lovely welcome party for them. Gaynor (Chair of Campie Parent Council) and her family were here, Fiona, Beth and Gavin from Forthview and Alastair whose mum is Burmese. We enjoyed a buffet and Paw Ray and Say Hei both managed to eat it.
Of course, today is Election Day in Burma so we quickly found the Irrawaddy website in Burmese so they could catch up on the news. The Election is over, the results unknown except we all know what they will be. However, news from our friends that the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army have seized power from the Burmese Army in Myawaddy, just over the bridge from Mae Sot. Follow this news on

They've had a shower now and they're both tucked up in bed at 7.30pm. Tomorrow They will both go to Forthview, taking greetings from Thazin. Then on Tuesday, Paw Ray is going to London to speak to groups about the need on the border for migrant Burmese and Karen children. Say Hei will be going to Campie and EVERYONE is very excited for that.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Journey is going well

I just spoke to Say Hei and Paw Ray on the phone. They are about to board the plane in Bangkok and have safely got through all the checkpoints. They sound happy and excited and a bit worried about how cold it will be. We'll be meeting them tomorrow at 3.35pm in Edinburgh Airport. Just amazing.

One of our lovely Campie mums went out today and organised 2 whole bags of essential clothing for living in Scotland. So so kind ... and the labels she made said,

"Welcome to our friends from Burma with much love from your Campie friends. x"

What a lovely start. Thank you Campie mum. :)

Friday, 5 November 2010

Say Hei comes, An Election in Burma

At last, Say Hei will arrive in Scotland on Sunday 7 November at 3.30pm. She will be in Campie on Tuesday, or perhaps Monday. The children are all very excited to meet her and are pretty good at the Burmese greeting. Minglaba! Say Hei hasn’t got any shoes. She only wears sandals so we’re guessing what size she is so we can take some shoes to the airport for her. Gaynor’s family and Ms Laing and a Burmese lady called Khin are going to meet Say Hei and her friend Paw Ray, who is travelling with her.

On Saturday, the Campie teachers who went to Burma and 6 P7s are going to Glasgow to speak at Amnesty International’s Scottish Conference about Burma. Ko Htike and Win Maung Thein are going with us. They are Burmese refugee students at Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith so the P7s will enjoy quizzing them on the train.

It’s a very important weekend for the Burmese people. The first elections since 1990 are on Sunday, the day Say Hei and Paw Ray arrive in Scotland. Last time Aung San Suu Kyi won the elections. This time, her party are not allowed to be elected. So the election is not as fair as the election Campie children have voted in this week. Every child from P2- 6 has voted in the Children’s Vote run by Tam Baillie. Nobody told Campie children what to vote for. Burma is very different. So listen to the news children and listen out for what happens in Burma this weekend.

On 13 November, Aung San Suu Kyi may be freed so listen out for that too. Say Hei and Paw Ray will be finding out what’s really going on in Burma and they will tell us.
So have a safe journey Sey Hei. We are all thinking about you. You are very brave, just like Aung San Suu Kyi.