Mass Resettlement Underway Of Burmese Refugees
8/3/07 Myanmar (BosNewsLife) — There was hope Friday, August 3, for hundreds of Burmese refugees, many of them Christians, as the United States continued “mass resettlement” efforts, a major human rights group said.
US-based Christian Freedom International (CFI) said Bertha Say Dah and Mercy Htoo, two teenage girls from what it described as “war-ravaged Burma “, also known as Myanmar , are among the refugees settling in the United States . The two learned English, computer skills, science and the Bible at a vocational school run by Christian Freedom International in the border town of Mae Sot in Thailand , not far from the Mae La refugee camp.
“I will go to America with my family. If I study I will try my best,” said Bertha Say, 17, who will reside in Oklahoma City , Oklahoma with her mother and two sisters. Mercy, 15, who hopes to be a missionary teacher, began her new life in Fort Wayne , Indiana last week.
CFI said that the “long-awaited resettlement is finally coming to pass after thousands of ethnic Karen and Karenni natives have already been displaced, raped, or brutally slaughtered by Burma’s military over the past several decades.” The group said the humanitarian crisis has left the country “operating as a nationwide concentration camp.”
CFI and a BosNewsLife team in Burma established that many Karens, a predominantly Christian ethnic group, have gone into hiding in the mountains or jungles without adequate food, shelter or medicine.
Many more displaced men, women and children – over 100,000 – are crowding refugee camps along the Burma-Thai border, some who have languished there for over 25 years.
“As the crisis worsens with no end in sight, the US State Department finally approved the applications of thousands of refugees who have sought asylum in the United States . The decision came after months of political indecision and a final waiver of restrictions under the Immigration and Nationality Act that previously blocked a resettlement,” CFI said.
They now face the challenges of establishing new lives throughout the US , and require “the assistance of many social service agencies, organizations, churches, and families,” CFI added.
“Many of the refugees will be unaccompanied minors,” warned CFI International President Jim Jacobson, whose organization has provided humanitarian aid and support to the Karens since 1996. “These are the most vulnerable of the refugee population; they will need help from caring foster families as they arrive in the US ,” he added.
The Burmese military government has described reports of persecution as “propaganda.” Human rights watchers have linked the reported attacks to concern within the military about the spread Christianity, which it allegedly views as a threat to its power base.
The party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s, the National League for Democracy, won a general election by a landslide on May 27, 1990, but junta leaders refused to hand over power, insisting the country first needed a new constitution.