Unrecognised leaders: tomorrow’s hope for Burma

24 May 2017 | ResolutionPossible

burma; thailand; education; refugees; democracy; leaders; hopeA conflict which started in the late 1940s in Burma is still ongoing. The 2015 democratic elections which saw a political party come into power rather than the military, have changed some of the country’s situation, but the conflict is far from over. Ministries such as that of home, defence, and border affairs remain in military hands. This means the police, military, and intelligence are still not being run democratically. It doesn’t provide much confidence for the Burmese refugees in Thailand to return home.

Former Resolution:Possible researcher, Mirja Brand, is in Thailand close to the Burmese border, where she learns daily about the skepticism, but also the hopes, of those waiting for peace to be able to return to their homes.

Unrecognised Leaders, Tomorrow’s Hope: Raising the Voices of Forgotten Youth is a documentary film by Burma Link, the Karen Student Network Group (KSNG) and the Karen Youth Organisation (KYO). The film listens to several 20-something people on either side of the Thai-Burma border. We are shown how the young people are living in permanent ‘limbo’ unsure whether to remain in the refugee camps or attempt to return to their villages.

 

 

Identity is a great struggle. Ethnic difference has been a component of the conflict and persecution, yet people need their cultures, languages, and histories to be able to understand who they are. “Ethnic groups have their own culture, history, and language,” explains Klee K’Paw from the English Immersion Programme. “If the government doesn’t recognise us learning [about our cultures and history], it is the same as destroying our cultures.”

However, the young people in the documentary stress that it is unity they want. Learning about ones culture shouldn’t divide people from different ethnic backgrounds. Their focus is on the future: learning to read, write, improving their English; these are all skills needed to be able to lead their communities and country.

The UN General Assembly recognised that “in conflict situations, higher education protects a critical group of young men and women by maintaining their hopes for the future”. We have seen in so many situations that when young people are robbed of hope, they stop being a positive part of their communities.

The English Immersion Programme of Klee K’Paw is an example of different cultures being combined with a common purpose: there is a great mix of ethnicities at his school, which people openly talk about. However, they are also united in their pursuit of knowledge and by extension a better future for themselves and their communities.

Education and engagement programmes for the young people in the Thai-Burma border region have ensured that they have strong, informed opinions and aims for the future of their country. Let’s hope that they will be able to put these into practise sooner rather than later.

Find out more about Voices of Youth on Facebook or visit the Burma Link website.

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