Refugee Situation On Thai - Burma Border
July 3, 2009
Problems On The Border: For those that have known our ministry for a long time, you know that we have had extensive ministry with the Karen people in the Nation of Burma. Our history with the Karen people goes back over 22 years now. We used to travel into Burma frequently and had many opportunities to pray for and advise the President of the Karen as well as many government and military leaders. Back in those days we operated three bible schools inside Burma. That all came to a screeching halt in 1995 when the Burmese forces overtook the Karen headquarters and over 100,000 refugees were forced into Thailand. We did a massive outreach to the refugees that came in at that time as the refugee camps along the Thai - Burma border were being established. We have continued our work with the Karen from Burma through the refugee camps since 1995.
Many changes have taken place as the Burmese continue their brutal suppression of the Karen every year. The Karen people have lost their freedom year by year. Their houses and lands have been captured, their farms have been overtaken and their livestock have been stolen.
Last month fierce fighting broke out again as the Burmese plundered village after village; killing, stealing and raping as they went. This has been the fiercest attack on the Karen since back in 1995. Again, thousands of refugees have been forced across the border into Thailand. They have run for their lives and were not able to bring anything through with them. We are once again faced with several thousands displaced Karen villagers on the Thai side.
In the past 14 years after the main exodus back in 1995, every time this happened, the villagers would wait until things cooled down and then they would return to their land in Burma and begin to rebuild. This year it doesn't appear that this will be possible. The Burmese have declared that this will be the final conquest and that they will annihilate every Karen that dares to stay on Burmese soil. These people don't have a place to go back to. They had very little freedom to begin with and now they have lost even that.
When the problem broke out last month, our contacts along the border contacted us for help. It was another one of those "There Must Be Something We Can Do" moments. To make a long story short....we began meeting the needs of the Karen refugees arriving in Thailand. The Thai government is not allowing them to enter the existing refugee camps at this time. The Thai military is in hopes that things will settle down like before and the refugees will return to Burma. Our sources inside Burma tell us this is unlikely to happen this time.
In the mean time we have 5000 people on our border without the basic necessities of life. They came in with the clothes on their back. We have been providing basic supplies: tarps to erect temporary shelters, sleeping mats to get them off the ground, drinking water containers and eating utensils, mosquito nets for malaria prevention as well as basic food items. We began this outreach with a generous gift from one of our supporting churches. However, that gift is gone and the people still have vital needs. On top of the immediate relief supplies being provided, we have also been asked to care for 40 orphans that have resulted from this attack.
We are now realizing that this situation will probably go long term. Officials are meeting every day discussing whether a new refugee camp will be built or allowed. The UN has delivered some rice and basic food supplies to the larger populations of refugees and other ministries and NGO's are helping where they can.
We have been filling in the gaps....because of our long standing relationship with the Karen people in Burma, we have regular contact with the planning and organizing committees. We told them up front that we don't want to deliver and stockpile relief goods where other organizations have already sent things. We asked to be informed about the clusters of people that are not being reached. As a result, we have been able to pinpoint accurate delivery of supplies that are vitally needed. We have been given the military clearance to deliver the goods to the right locations.
It is now obvious to us that this ordeal will be going on for at least a couple more months as the government gets their plan unfolded and into operation. To be able to effectively meet this need we are going to need assistance. We ask you to prayerfully consider helping us reach out to these displaced Karen people.
Last night I received a call from our coordinator working on the border. 550 families gathered in three different locations do not have food to eat. We needed $6,000.00 to make that delivery....we only had $3,500.00 left in the refugee account. We drained our account and that food is being delivered as I write this Friday July 3rd.
We have the man power; we have the government and military clearances, we have the vehicles and equipment necessary to orchestrate the outreach. We even have Gospel literature already printed in the Karen language....we simply need the funding to buy food, medicine and basic supplies for these people.
Please prayerfully consider helping us reach out to the displaced Karen people.
God Bless You Richly!
Charlie and Cathy
PS: Checks should be sent to our Tucson, AZ address. Credit card donations can be given at our website www.lwmi.org Funds can be wired directly to our Thailand account if you prefer. Simply provide your bank with the following information:
Account Name: Living Word Ministries
S.W.I.F.T. Code: SICO TH BK
The Siam Commercial Bank Public Co., LTD.
Thaphae Branch, Chiangmai
17 Thaphae Rd. Tambon Chanklan
Ampur Muang, Chiangmai 50100