Saturday, 21 July 2012

Thein Naing's House

David - 8 July, Mae Sot
Thein Naing then took us to his house, via a muddy and bumpy orange path alongside a dirty river/canal, where some local boys were having a swim. Later, we saw very small children scavenging through rubbish, collecting plastic bottles and bags to recycle.
The downstairs of Thein Naiang's house is the office where he and his colleagues produce the magazine Maukkha, an educational and cultural magazine for Burmese teachers and others inside and outside Burma. His latest issue had a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi receiving her honorary degree at Oxford.
Thein Naing explained the complex difficulties surrounding the Burmese exiled community returning home. He is keen to go back at some point, but thinks it will be 2-3 years before things really start to change and a lot of Burmese start to go home.
At the moment, there are many reasons why this is problematic, we have learned - fighting in ethnic areas (Shan & Kachin states), general fear and uncertainty about the intentions of the Burmese Government and how much democracy they will allow -and economic issues. There is a shortage of jobs in Burma and many migrant workers feel they have a degree of security in Thailand - even if the jobs are low-paid. These migrant workers are important to the Thai economy, filling many low-paid jobs, but there are also Burmese people who have started their own businesses in Thailand, while in Burma this enterprise culture simply doesn't exist.
Thein Naing is keen to use his skills - as a writer, editor, teacher and teacher trainer - in Burma, but isn't quite sure how he will do that at the moment. A lot of Burmese people living in exile are in the same position.
Despite the changes in Burma, there are still people coming over the border into Thailand. There are 150,000 people in the refugee camps and an enormous migrant population in the Tak state of Thailand of which Mae Sot is part. The problems are all very challenging and there are no easy answers.
Thein Naing then led us on our bikes to Mae Tao Clinic, passing lots of goats and some water buffalo on the way - and then being passed by Sheila, Geoff and a pallid Maya in a motorised rickshaw.
We were led into the library at Mae Tao Clinic, where we were soon introduced to Dr Cynthia.

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