Myanmar (MNN) — Hopelessness is rising among refugees in Thailand as threats of deportation loom. According to Vision Beyond Borders (VBB), plans are underway to send thousands of ethnic minorities back to Myanmar (also known as Burma) in 2017.
“They’re doing this based on the fact that [Myanmar’s] government is showing all these democratic reforms and changes. They [Thailand’s government] hope that this means the refugees will then be safe,” VBB’s Dyann Romeijn explains.
“All the information coming from the ethnic areas, where there’s still fighting, [shows] that they would not be safe,” she adds.
Myanmar’s leaders may have inched toward democracy, Romeijn explains, but the armed forces are a different matter.
“The Burma Army has gained so much power that it’s difficult to control them. The military…[is] not really answering to the government,” says Romeijn.
“[There are] not only ongoing atrocities against the people, but in some cases, it’s actually increasing. In the last two months of 2015, there were an additional 10,000 people displaced by the Burma Army attacking ethnic groups.”
The target of deportation threats
According to the U.S. State Department, an estimated 150,000 refugees from Burma live in nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. Many of the refugee children have stories like Mila’s.
(Photo courtesy of VBB)
Mila* is a young girl living in one of the camps along the Thai-Burma border. She belongs to an ethnic group hated by Burmese militants who hunted for Mila and her family when they lived inside Burma’s borders.
“They had fled, and only her and one cousin ended up making it to the camps,” Romeijn shares. “Everybody else was killed while they were trying to flee.”
Mila’s cousin drowned last month, leaving Mila to face the world without a family. Would you please keep her in your prayers? Pray that Mila will find the immediate and eternal comfort of salvation through Jesus Christ, if she doesn’t already know Him.
Deportation threats have created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty within refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border. There’s been a noted “suicide spike” in the camps of late. While deportation threats aren’t the cause of all suicides, they’re certainly a contributing factor.
A VBB short-term missions team visited one of these refugee camps in recent days. Along with confirming deportation fears, Romeijn says the team learned of 36 suicides committed since August.
The trickle-down effect of fear and despair is making a lasting impression on young hearts and minds.
“Many of [the children] wrote us notes,” Romeijn shares, referring to the residents of achildren’s home supported by VBB. Through the children’s home, kids are learning how to read and write in English.
“[They wrote:] ‘Please don’t forget me,’ and ‘I will never forget you.’ I love you’, and ‘I can tell you love people,’ and things like that. It’s heartbreaking, and you can just hear their plea to not be forgotten.”
Refugee kids worshipping the Lord.
(Photo courtesy VBB)
The camp Romeijn and her team visited currently holds more than 18,000 refugees from Myanmar. Of those, over 125 are children; 90 kids have no living adult relative.
Vision Beyond Borders’ partners are trying to get these vulnerable kids to safety before the Thai government drives refugees out in 2017, Romeijn says. A piece of land has been purchased in Myanmar, and plans are underway to construct a new children’s home for the refugee kids coming from Thailand.
The cost to bring children from Thailand to Myanmar is expected to run somewhere around $5,000. Click here to help.
“Ahead of [the exodus] they want to get these kids out so that if the army is going to attack people…these orphans would not be attacked.”
* Name changed for security purposes.