A Karen refugee from Myanmar says living in Australia has restored his dignity as a human being.
Keh Blut, who spoke at this month’s Karen National Day event in Hobsons Bay, arrived in Australia seven years ago after being born and raised in a refugee camp.
He works at Werribee’s New Hope Foundation, supporting other migrants and refugees.
Mr Blut said that after Karen land was confiscated by Burmese authorities, thousands lacked medicine, shelter or security and fled to Thailand as refugees.
“I was working as a community worker for 26 years,” he said.
“I was working with internally displaced people who are hiding in the jungle.
“Political turmoil and civil war have been common to me since I was born.
“The country is still ruled by the military dictatorship and there are many armed resistance ethnic groups still fighting for their freedom and equality.”
Mr Blut said civil war between opposition groups and the military government had been ongoing since Burma gained independence in 1948.
Its national day commemorates a peaceful demonstration by more than 400,000 Karen people who marched more than 1400 kilometres across Myanmar in 1948 seeking equal rights and justice.
Mr Blut said “Karen New Year Day” was celebrated around the world but could really only be a celebration for those free from fear.
“It is illegal to celebrate Karen National Day in Burma,” he said.
“Living in Australia, I started to taste the value of freedom and humanity, and regain my dignity as a human being.
‘‘I can live fearless under the Australian laws and regulations. I have the opportunity to learn higher education and work peacefully in this country. Thanks Australians.”