Since independence in 1948, Burma/Myanmar has experienced one of the longest protracted conflicts in history. In 1962 the military overthrew the government to take control and institute a dictatorship. Over the past forty years, the ongoing military rule has been characterized as violent and repressive. Ethnic minorities throughout the country have been displaced, tortured and subject to gross human rights violations. Since the 1980s, members of ethnic minority groups have been migrating across borders in search of safety.
Unlike members of the Karen and Karenni minority groups, the Shan Burmese have not been afforded ‘refugee’ status by the Thai government. They, therefore, are not allowed humanitarian assistance and lack protection by any international agency. The Shan Burmese are technically considered ‘stateless,’ a population living in a precarious legal limbo. Their lack of citizenship is both a violation of their fundamental human right as well as an inhibitor to accessing other rights.
As a part of an estimated 12 million stateless around the world, the communities we work with are often subjected to exploitation and instability and forced to work dangerous and degrading jobs. The government restricts their movements and they face the daily threat of deportation. Many of the migrants we work with report severe discrimination and are the targets of abuse and theft. Thus, they must keep a low profile often struggling to support their families with limited opportunities for the future. Even so, our communities are filled with hope and ambition as both adults and children express dreams for the future and find ways to improve their current situations.
Now, 20 years after the Shan started fleeing to Thailand, recent political changes have reignited our common hope for a democratic Burma. Our projects are designed to provide them with opportunities to gain the education, skills and support necessary to overcome their challenges and improve their lives. We hope to respond to the Shan’s changing needs and ensure their success wherever they choose to reside.
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