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TO REGAIN THE EARTH FOR US ALL

Our understanding of how to live-
Live with one another-
is still far behind our knowledge of how to destroy one another
-Lyndon Johnson

The special attraction that stands him out and made him unique among his peers this graduating year is his absolute concentration on the guitar he was playing so perfectly, it was this talent that brought about initial magnetism before discovering the story behind his painstaking knowledge and perfection in using several musical instrument.

His name is Saw Doo Plout Soe, he was born on March 9, 1989 in Perhelu refugee camp in the border of Thailand and Burma. Kipho as he is fondly called has never stepped out of Maeramoe camp until he was given scholarship to study learn about Identity, Human Rights and Transformation. Learning about his background made one forget about his talents and many spectatros for once forgot the music and came back to tthe reality when he narrated the experiences of living in a refuggee camp, a place where there is no identity but his UN Number, his number is 005984. Patiently, he narrated his ordeal, life and graphically explained what life looks like in the camp while praying that there be no end to his course in Peace school India because breathing air of freedom to Kipho was the first experience of confidence and dignity, he was shattered, broken and oppressed, he hardly look at anyone in the face when we first met.

The interview took us iinto the long night becasue we had to understand each other and pateintly made progress as time flies.

Olutosin: Can you please give a brief intorduction about yourself, I mean your family too?

Saw Doo: My parents got married in Perhelu in the refugee camp in 1986, I am the second child and was born in 1989, my parents have seven children, four boys and three girls and she delivered all in the refugee camps. Some families have twelve children because they do not have work to do, that is why they just deliver many children and they do not know anything about birth control in the refugee camp. We first lived in Perhelu but later on moved to Maeramoe camp, when we first got there, there was no food and each family source for what to eat, but when the NGO came they began to distribute food.

Olutosin: How was she able to cope with the children and life in the camp?

Saw Doo: The International NGOs were supporting us with food and some form of education

Olutosin: You were able to sudy

Saw Doo: Yes

Olutosin: So how were your parents susrviving before the NGO came?

Saw Doo: My mother was not working but taking care of her children, doing all the household chores, so I will say she was working for her children though unpaid, while my father was one of the officials of the camp committee, all we do is eat and discuss in the camp, we must never discuss politics.

Olutosin: So how do you move around in Thailand?

Saw Doo: We are not allowed to move around outside the refugee camp, any refugee who moved outside would be arrested by Thai police and will remain in custody before being sent back to Burma.

Olutosin: Burmese and Thailand citizens here look so much alike, how will the police differentiate?

Saw Doo: There are gates that lead out of the refugee camps to the cities and there are several police check points and without the identity card, the police will arrest such a person. There are few brave ones who work in the neighbouring villages of Thailand, these ones are used by Thai farmers as cheap labourers, they earn a dollar per day and they are expected to arrive at the farms by six in the morning and close in the evening and they must come with their foods, because the farmers will not feed these labourers. Our women are also engaged in this cheap labour but becasue of survival many people risk their lives to work in these farms.

Olutosin: What about the people left in Burma?

Saw Doo: This is a complicated issue, most of the times, the women and children are beaten and raped, some are killed after the raping, most of the times, younger girls will escape to tell the stories of how their mothers were raped and tortured before killing, no one will understand, I mean it is very complicated that these ones are killed by Burma military men. They are referred to as the Internally Displaced People (IDP) . They are vulnerable to attack especially in Summer time when the military will come for what we refer to as "various activities", this is the worst time, summer time. The military will burn the houses and the villages and whenever they are leaving, they will plant landmines for our people, these have killed thousand of Burmese. In 2010 alone, that is January to April when I left, more than 2,000 people left their villages and are living in the forest, some of them inside caves, children hardly survive and they die everyday. Many corpses are left to be eaten by animals, we do not have time to bury the dead ad everyone flees. There are no schools in the forest and NGO's do not and cannot supply these ones with medicine, but at least once a year the NGo will visit the forests to make some supply of medicine to children, this is very rare becasue the forest is very dangerous and NGO's are afraid of landmines.

Olutosin: But the refugee camps are safer, not so?

Saw Doo: Yes, but still the children in the forest cannot attend schools, hospital or any social amenities, presently the Thai government does not want Burmese to cross over to the refugee camp again, and people are turned back into these forests. If the refugee camps are relatively safe, is the future of Burmese safe? There are 140, 000 Burmese inhabiting these seven refugee camps in Thailand, the camps are:
Mela refugee camp
Ompia camp
Nopo camp
Meramo camp
Melaheu camp
Bandoya camp
Tamihe camp
In meramo, there are more thatn 25,000 refugee, there are 10 sections, four hospitals built by NGO's , these hospitals are built with bamboo and leaves but they have thick and solid woods serving as pillars. There are ten primary school in the camp but each scool has six classes and we have three High schools with four libraries all these are built by NGO's.

Olutosin: What are the youths engaged in in the camps?

Saw Doo: In the refugee camps, the youths are hopeless, many of them do not attend classes because those who have graduated cannot get any job, so those who are in school are not enthusiatic about completing their education, what is the use of education that cannot liberate a man? Our girls are getting married at their early age and delivering babies, the population in the camps is growing at an alarming rate, many women have twelve children, some ten children, the average is nine children in these camps. We are very far from the reality, there is no hope for the Burma child in refugee camp, there is no future for my people.

Olutosin: There is hope, all hope is not lost:

Saw Doo: Is it hope in the daily wage of a dollar per day? The wage cannot sustain those who work for it not to talk of thier families.

Olutosin: You play guitar so well, where did you learn it?

Saw Doo: I learn through reading books, it was so difficult at the begining, but because I love music in church and when I discovered that I could not sing because of my voice then I decided to learn guitar, I can play piano and the drum very well. I am very talented.

Olutosin: Oh yes, I can see that. I wish you peace in Burma.

Saw Doo: I want peace in Burma, freedom for my people and land.

Olutosin: May all your wish come true. I wish you well.

Peace is a never ending process-
we cannot ignore our differences
or overlook our common interests
it requires us to work and to live together.
Oscar Arias sanchez

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Comments

Nusrat Ara's picture

Thanks for sharing her

Thanks for sharing her story.

Love

Nusrat

olutosin's picture

Welcome Girl

That is part of the reasons why I am in Asia, to report global issues through the eye of women...
Thanks so much for reading too.....

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

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