For the Karen refugee community in Thailand, the future is uncertain. With the Thai government threatening to send back one million migrants next year to an area that is not yet fully secure, concern amongst the Karen people is growing.
Within Karen State there has been a formal ceasefire with the Burmese government for a month, but human rights violations continue outside the conflict area. Landmines still need to be removed and a safe and secure place established for the return of refugees and internally displaced people. Return at this point is too dangerous.
The Children’s Crisis Centre we support in Thailand exists for unaccompanied refugee children fleeing Burma, it provides temporary shelter, education, nutrition and trauma counseling until a time when children can be reunited with their families. If conditions in Burma do radically improve, then some of the children at our Crisis Centre must be fully resourced and well prepared for the possibility of returning to their homeland, whilst those who cannot, need support in building a future within Thailand.
At the Centre we have started a Thai language training program for 8 teenage residents to prepare them for the possibility of entering Thai secondary schools or universities. In addition to their usual studies, these students are also participating in a General Education Degree (GED) programme not only to qualify for University but to get a grounding in other subjects including Non profit management, Accounting, and Community Development. Many are volunteering or working part time locally to build experience.
Seven younger children at the Centre have been orphaned and have no family in Burma to return to. To enable them to build a secure future in Thailand, these children are also receiving Thai language classes with the hope of enrolling them in local schools next year.
Staff at the Centre are talking with local agencies and the Ministry of Education to prepare for the possibility that some students, who have remaining family in Burma may later be able to return to Burmese schools across the border. We are ensuring they have a corresponding grade level for attending Burmese school.
Whether they have the option of returning to Burma in the future or not, most of the children here have experienced some serious level of trauma before, during or after their escape from the conflicts across the border. This term we will be focussing more on spending time with the children, especially those who have shown signs of stress or trauma. Activities will include play therapy, discussion groups, talks on nutrition, and one-on-one mentorship time.
One of the children described the play sessions “Other children might think that we are bored so we are playing games. But actually we are doing these activities to develop our life in a good way. Because these activities included unity, brother-sister hood, and trust.”
Find out more about our ongoing work with Karen refugee children in Thailand, and please consider donating to the project.
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