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Burmese Refugees
From oppression to freedom

Burmese children

Two Burmese refugee children wait for resettlement in a camp in Thailand.  More than 20,000 people live in this camp which is less than a square mile.

Burma is in Southeast Asia and is an agricultural country. Burma was colonized by the British in 1886 and became independent in 1947. Today Burma is also call Myanmar, which is the name given by the military government in 1990. It is a diverse country with over 50 million people and 135 ethnic groups. The ethnic populations each have their own language, customs, and beliefs. There are over 111 languages spoken within Burma but the majority of Burmese speak the Burmese language.

Burmese people are very polite. They respect older generations and their mentors. People distinguish older and younger generations by using pronouns in front of the name “Daw” means Aunt for women very much older than you and Sister for women little older than you. For younger women, they use younger sister. For men, “U” means Uncle and Brother who are older than you and younger Brother for younger than you. In Burmese cultural people don’t hug, but hand shaking is commonly used. Burmese people always prefer to have rice with curries for their lunch and dinner mealtime. Most Burmese people like spicy food except some young children.

Burmese refugee children in a boat
These Burmese children are returning home from the one room school in the refugee camp.  They share books, paper, pencils and chairs.
Burma is divided into fourteen states and divisions. The two largest ethnic groups are Mon and Shans. Burma is primarily a Buddhist country. 80% of its people are Buddhist and the other 20% of its people are Christian, Muslims, or Hindu. Burma has been in civil war for a long time. It is one of the poorest countries (LDC) in the world.

There are two different problems in Burma. First, all of the different ethnicities want their own country. Secondly, the government is taking away the basic human rights of their people through a strict military regime. Government control is maintained through censuring of information, repression of individual rights and suppression of minority groups. The government has trouble maintaining the economy because of a lack in tourism due to their unfriendly international image. It is also affected by U.S. sanctions on imports and exports from Burma.

Since the democracy movement the on the 8th of August 1988, people from all levels of society have been entering the borderlines fighting for freedom. Most of them are still in the areas of Thailand, Malaysia, and India etc… and some of them are refugee status in other countries.

Burma has many different problems, so the Burmese people must consider their lives and try to build for families and communities. The Burmese Refugees have been living on the borderlines for years. Some have opportunities to resettle in other countries and some Burmese Refugees choose to resettle in the US. Most refugees have been living outside of normal society so their health is probably abnormal and most of them have little or no education.

Today, there are many Burmese refugees and asylees that have been resettled in the US. In Capital region, USCRI Albany assists when new refugees arrive. It can be very difficult to adjust to a new way of life. Lack of English speaking and reading skills make it hard to get to know people and find jobs. We are trying to integrate these new refugees into the Albany community, but we cannot do that without community support. If you would like to help welcome these new Burmese refugees to the community, please contact the Preferred Communities Program at USCRI at 518 459 1790.


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