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Pee Law, or Esther, is 15 and from the Burmese village of Taw Kah Koh. “Sometimes the Burmese soldiers came to my village, and we need to run.” They “captured the animals and ate them,” a devastating blow to the poor farmers. “When I heard the sound of guns, and I was very afraid,” she writes.
Sixteen-year-old Ky Moo, or Christopher, explains: “My family enjoy very much my village, but when Burmese soldiers came to village and they killed people and burn our village.” His family fled to a refugee camp in Thailand, but it was later attacked by a breakaway Karen group allied with the SPDC. Refugees were killed and wounded and his new home was burned down, so they fled again, to another camp.
Su Meh (Eve), 14, is one of eight children. She talks about her life: “When I was baby the Burmese soldiers come to kill us and we will run far away to another places. If we not run we will die.” But fleeing exacts a cost: “We do not have food to eat and we do not have money or clothes for us to wear.” A refugee camp was their best hope.
Khu Wak Paw, or Ruth, is 16. She was born in a Karen village in Thailand, but her father planted his land in Burma. “My father go to work with his friends over the border line. SPDC saw my father and they kill my father with one friend of my father.”
The family’s problems were not over. Although they were unsafe in Burma, “because we are not Thai citizens” the Thai police came and “exile us,” as well as other families, over the border. Their new village was vulnerable to SPDC soldiers, who “take the chicken and kill the pig also and sometimes kill the people.”
She would grow sad because “Karen people is like animals in the jungle.” Those who live in “the Karen village is always worry about the mines for the village it is difficult to feed their families. Most of Karen villagers cannot walk far away from the path because they afraid the mine will blow them up.” She eventually made it to Mae la refugee camp in Thailand, and thence to the CFI school.
Fifteen-year-old Lay Say, or John, saw his village burned down, so his family fled to Thailand. Both his father and uncle were soldiers with the Karen National Liberation Army. That’s “why the Burmese soldier come and kill my father.”
Way Nay Lin (Mark) also is 15. He tells his story: “Burmese soldiers attacked my village. Many people fled to the forest. The Burmese soldiers are too bad for us because they killed a lot of people and burn our home and our barn and they take away our animals and all things that they want. And in a few weeks they caught my father and beat, kicked and tied him up. The Burmese soldiers then took him to jail. And my father was there for a week before the soldiers tortured and killed him.”
Understandably, “my family was afraid” and “we fled into the jungle. During that time we had no food.” They eventually crossed the border into Thailand.
Fourteen-year-old Mercy Htoo, or Victoria, was born in a refugee camp. Before that her family lived in Burma, but fled after SPDC attacks on her village. She explains: “They want to went back to their own village, but they thought. If we go, the Burmese soldiers will see us and kill us. So they are very sad to leave their own country and their parents and all their relatives.”
The camp offered safety, but not opportunity. Explains Mercy Htoo: “they can’t go any where. They can’t own the land to plant the food, fruits, or vegetables.” Her family, she adds, “don’t want to stay in the refugee camp always because it’s not our own land and life is very difficult.”
Moo Ywee (Kimberly), is 14. Her story is simple but brutal: “Our family village have many dangers. Sometimes the Burmese soldiers attacked our village. We ran away, but some people did not escape. The soldiers shot and killed them.” Among the dead: her father. “When I am a child, I did not understand” why they murdered him. Her family made its way to a refugee camp in Thailand.
Although the brutality is universal, Christians, who encompass the vast majority of Karen and many Karenni, often are special targets. Klo P’lan Paw explains that “The Burmese soldier don’t like the Christian when they know, and see a Christian they kill all. So we need to worship in hide place.”
Paw Lah May, also known as Linda, is 13. Her village was attacked and burned. Her parents sent her to live with her aunt in a Thai refugee camp. She says that “The Burmese soldiers don’t like the Christian. If they see you worship God they kill you.”
What do the children want? Essentially what the rest of us want. Explains Khu Wah Paw: “Karen living in Burma “don’t have enough food, clothes and opportunity. Some of the children, if they want to learn, read, write, they don’t have anybody to teach them. We want our own land but we can’t have, we want freedom, we wait for many years but we never get.”
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