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BosNewsLife (03/06/06) – Lah Yui Say, a 21-year old Christian refugee from Burma whose life story came to symbolize persecution of Christians by the Burmese military, graduated across the border at a Bible school in Thailand Monday, March 6, Christian aid workers said.

Christian Freedom International (CFI) told BosNewsLife that Lah Yui Say, whose father was tortured and killed after her village was burned down, managed to reach its Bible School in the Mae Hong Song area of Thailand near the Burmese border where it supports many of the thousands of predominantly Christian Karen and Karenni refugees.

“I became a Christian when I was young,” Lah Yui Say, an ethnic Karen, said in remarks obtained by BosNewsLife. “Burmese soldiers came to our village and burned our houses down,” she added.

In 2002 Lah Yui Say, along with her four sisters, brother, and parents fled Burma , also known as Myanmar , to a refugee camp in Thailand . “My parents were worried that my sisters and I would be raped by the soldiers. My parents heard that we could be safer and have opportunities in the refugee camp so we came here,” she said.

Encouraged by her father Lah Yui Say enrolled in a CFI sponsored Bible School for Karen and Karenni refugees. She graduated Monday, March 6, but the ceremony was apparently bittersweet.

FATHER KILLED

“Last May my father and two friends were coming from the refugee camp to visit me here at the Bible School . On the way they took a shortcut through Burma , but my father was caught by the Burmese soldiers; his friends got away,” added Lah Yui Say.

“They captured my father and tortured him. The soldiers cut off his legs, his arms, and his head. They put his head, legs, and arms on poles surrounded by landmines so no one could come close to his body. We don’t know why they would do this. My father was a good man; he was not a soldier, he was a Christian,” CFI quoted Lah Yui Say as saing.

“When my father left the camp, he only wanted to visit his daughter. He would have wanted to be here today.” While it was difficult to verifc the alleged atrocities independently, a BosNewsLife team investigating the situation investigating the situation in Burma last year heard similar stories from Karen villagers.

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

“After my father’s death I went back to stay with my mother for a month, but she decided I could come back to the Bible School . The teachers here at the Bible School have told me so much about Jesus and the Bible,” Lah Yui Say said.

“I wanted to come here. My parents wanted me to come. I now want to work for the Lord full time. Right now I will go back to the camp and serve as an assistant in my church. As refugees we don’t have a country. We stay here as refugees.”

There are up to 1.5 million internal refugees, many cowering in bleak hovels deep inside malarial jungles or on bitterly cold mountainsides, human rights groups, estimates CFI.

MASSIVE EXODUS

The violence has reportedly accelerated exodus to neighboring countries, including more than 400,000 to Thailand , where thousands arrive each month, the Burma Border Consortium, a major refugee aid group said.

The organization said the army has destroyed some 3,000 villages and displaced 80,000 people a year in most recent times. Since 1999, the United States has designated Burma , as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly “severe violations of religious freedom.”

The State Peace and Development Council government, a group of generals who govern the Asian nation by decree without a constitution or legislature since 1988, has denied wrongdoing. SPDC leaders accused Westerners and “internal destructive elements” of spreading “fabrications.” Like previous governments in the country, the generals claim they have a sacred obligation to hold the nation of 43 million together and stamp out “separatist rebellions” among its 135 officially recognized races.

CFI operates schools and orphanages for Karen and Karenni refugees who managed to escale along the Burma/Thailand border. It also is distributing medicines and aid to internally displaced persons inside Burma .