Sunday, February 28, 2010

My friend in the cage

Most people do not know any refugees.  Because we have spent so much time in the border town in Thailand, we know many. I want to tell you about a woman that Sandy and I love and what it is like to be a refugee.

I can not say her name because she still has relatives in Burma and fears that somehow she could jeopardize their safety by even mentioning her name.  This may seem paranoid to you and I, but as children we did not witness the heads of local factory workers the government cut off and put on fence posts to intimidate local people.  We did not have our family torn apart because our brother wanted democracy and participated in protests.  We did not have a sister interrogated for hours and threatened because she may have inadvertently talked with reporters in a store.  We are lucky.

My friend lives in the border area of Thailand and has very limited rights there.  Because she cannot legally own property, she has had "friends" put vehicles and property in their name so she could run a small business.  Ultimately, they took the vehicles and the property and there is no recourse.  She knows if she is physically attacked, the police will turn a blind eye to many things because she is from Burma.

I think the worst thing is that she is in a virtual cage.  She is limited to living in a small extremely rural part of Thailand.  To the Thai governments credit, they do provide a semi-safe haven for refugees there. Nonetheless, she can not leave.  There are many police checkpoints to be sure she does not.  

I wish everyone knew my friend. I wish they could know a person who finds people with no hope due to health problems and gives them hope and helps them be cured.  I wish they could know someone who has so little, but is eager to give what she has to others. I wish they could watch her drive a motorbike like a trolley car...stopping to pick up and drop off her friends she sees walking on the streets. I wish they could meet someone who sacrifices so much to care for her mother.  

When we say goodbye to her we always end up saying we love each other and crying.  I think it must be terrible looking out from the cage as we go free, but it is not a lot of fun look in the cage and seeing someone you love trapped.

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