Two days ago we landed in Bangkok, jetlagged but unbelievably excited and ready for an amazing trip to the Thai-Burma border to learn more about the conflict in Burma and the effects on the communities in these border towns.
We spent our first day in Bangkok wandering the city and checking out the beautiful Grand Palace and giant reclining Buddha. The next day, we met with Alt-SEAN, an NGO which trains ethnic minority women in advocacy and organizing skills. We met six amazing interns who are all doing unique and inspiring work, especially regarding women’s rights, within their home communities. These women are returning with the skills from Alt-SEAN to train fellow activists to create a network and create political change that fits their cultural needs, while also uniting various ethnic groups that otherwise held tensions between each other.
Last night, we took a night bus from Bangkok to the border town of Mae Sot (and managed not to kill each other on the ten-hour ride.) Today was jam-packed but mind blowing! First we met with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, founded and run by people who have been held as political prisoners within Burma to help current political prisoners or previous political prisoners now living in exile. We were struck by their optimism and resolve even in the face of the horrific things they have endured at the hands of the Burmese military regime, simply for seeking human rights.
Next, we got the chance to hang out with the famous Generation Wave, a hip hop group doubling as underground political activists. Using music, graffiti, and technology, these young activists have kept the democracy movement alive amongst the youth of Burma. They were incredibly cool and, beyond just chatting about their experiences and jamming to an acoustic Burmese version of "I’ll Be Missing You," they made us lunch – traditional home-cooked Burmese style! It was awesome to hear ideas to create change in Burma from their perspective. Like the members of AAPP, they can’t reveal their identities, so unfortunately we couldn’t take videos or pictures of them for you.
Last but not least, we met with Yuang Chi Oo Workers Association, an NGO that deals with the issues Burmese migrant workers face in Thailand. There are hundreds of thousands of Burmese migrant workers struggling to support their families back home while struggling to protect their own rights. All the people we spoke with today told us that above all, though they value the safety of living and working in Thailand, they miss their families and their lives in their home country and long to return home.
Today was amazing, and offered us a view we don’t normally receive as activists in the U.S. It is rare to see the situation from the perspective of Burmese people and to have the opportunity to see and discuss their tools and tactics as activists. The rest of our week will only get better, so keep checking back for more video and blog content!
Peace, love, STAND,
Morgan, Nikki, and Matthew
(Burma Education Coordinator, MA State Outreach Coordinator, Online Strategies Coordinator)