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Karen visit to Phuket full of firsts

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Karen visit to Phuket full of firsts | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Nine-year-old Ywa Hay Tha never went on family trips to the beach; never saw his favorite films on the big screen; never got a chance for a “normal” life.

Nine-year-old Ywa Hay Tha was more concerned with keeping himself alive when he fled the Burmese military through the jungles of eastern Burma to the relative safety of the Umpiem Mai refugee camp in Thailand.

Now 18 years old, Ywa and 20 other ethnic Karen students of Thoo Mweh Khee (TMK) Senior College in Tak province visited Phuket last week for a cultural exchange after a “What if” conversation between a Satree Phuket School teacher and the director of TMK became reality.

TMK director Dr Shirley Worland said that the idea was inspired during a “silly conversation” with Satree Phuket social studies teacher Joey Ho, on her last day of a short volunteer stint with TMK.

While talking about the students’ travel restrictions, Dr Worland asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could get the kids down to Phuket?”

In what was a surprisingly smooth process, the group was issued a letter from the Tak Provincial Government permitting them to travel outside the province, based on a letter of invitation signed by the director of Satree Phuket, Kiattisak Pillawat.

NEW EXPERIENCES

The 21 students and several teachers, along with Dr Worland, arrived in Phuket last Sunday after a two-day drive from North Thailand.

All in their late teens and early twenties, the students have been experiencing a lot of “firsts” since setting foot onto the island.

On Monday, the group visited Satree Phuket School for a cultural exchange with Thai students – the first time many of them had ever interacted with their Thai peers despite having lived in Thailand for many years.

Ms Ho explained that she had earlier taught her social studies class about the situation along the Thai-Burma border, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled the Burmese military.

“That’s why when Shirley mentioned bringing the students down here, I thought it would be a great idea for them to actually meet these kids,” Ms Ho said.

She said that some of her students were so moved by the lesson that they took it upon themselves to make a donation box to raise funds to bring the Karen students to Phuket.

When they were asked to leave a local shopping center for soliciting funds without a permit, they stood outside in the heat trying to collect whatever they could, she said.

At Satree, the group was very impressed with the students and facilities.

They sat in on classes, participated in question-and-answer activities, gave a PowerPoint presentation and performed a drama they had written, based on their own experiences, with scenes detailing the violence and persecution they faced in Burma, their subsequent “run through the jungle” and arrival in Thailand.

On Tuesday, the Andaman Sea Club Co provided two catamarans, free of charge, for the students to get their first taste of sailing. The boats took the group to Koh Lone for a day of swimming and hanging out on the beach.

“This is the first time for me to see the ocean,” said 20-year-old Mary Win.

“Sailing was great. I felt like I was flying,” she added.

In fact, this was the first time most of the students had been to the sea.

“I like swimming because I’ve never been to the sea before, and also sailing – it was very good. I felt very comfortable with the wind blowing on me,” Ywa said.

On Tuesday evening the students joined the hordes of international shoppers at Phuket’s Central Festival, where they were treated to their first big screen experience. They watched The Green Hornet and then hit Burger King for their first fast-food experience.

Ms Ho said Karen reviews of Burger King were mixed, as the group are accustomed to a meatless diet because meat is too expensive. The film, however, got a unanimous thumbs-up.

The Secret Cove Guesthouse & Villas on the beach at Ao Yon provided free accommodation and meals for the group.

Owners Rik de Jong and Duangta Namsai hosted several fund-raising events, including a barbeque and beach parties, which paid for the majority of the trip.

“Without Rik’s generosity and efforts, this would not have been possible,” Ms Ho said.

“I am still quite emotional about the whole thing and still pinching myself to see if it’s real. This morning [Wednesday] I got up at 6:10 – quite a few of them were out walking at low tide, out to the coral – mostly one-by-one – just so amazed at the shells and small fish. They have collected hundreds of shells,” said Dr Worland.

THE FUTURE

The students are all part of either a two or three-year program at TMK Senior College, depending on their level of English.

TMK is part of the larger Migrant Learning Center, which is registered as such with the Thai Ministry of Education.

Most of the students come from families of migrants who are fleeing persecution in Burma’s troubled ethnic states and are not registered as residents in Thailand. They are therefore unable to attend Thai schools.

There are several schools for Burmese migrant children along the Thai-Burma border, and highly concentrated in Tak Province.

The students aim to take the General Education Development (GED) tests, which if passed show that the student has American or Canadian high school-level academic skills.

Many hope to pursue further education after leaving TMK, but the lack of funding often prevents them from doing so.

Ywa and Mary will be the first two students to graduate from the TMK program and both hope to find a way to study at university so they can help with social development and childhood education in their communities.

TMK is entirely dependent on private donations for day-to-day costs and Dr Worland hopes they will be able to raise enough money for a scholarship fund.

Anyone wishing to donate to the school or to help students like Ywa and Mary fulfill their potential can do so by contacting Dr Worland via email at shirleyworland@gmail.com.

Donors may also transfer funds to the school’s account, administered by Dr Worland: Siam Commercial Bank, account number 573-239360-6.

— Nicholas Altstadt



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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Mariam the young Krabi dugong dies

The Thaiger

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Mariam the young Krabi dugong dies | The Thaiger

PHOTO: กรมทรัพยากรทางทะเลและชายฝั่ง

The Phuket Marine Biological Centre has announced the sad news about the special young dugong ‘Mariam’, who was found in Krabi back on April 26.

Young Mariam died earlier today.

The centre posted on its official Facebook page that the vet team found that she’d stopped breathing and her pulse had stopped as well, so they brought her out of the water to try and stimulate breathing.

Initially, they found that she was still responding from her eyes so they return her back to the pond. After checking the pulse, they found that it stopped again so they used some veterinary medications to keep her alive and pulled her out of the water for a second time.

She was pronounced dead at midnight today.

In a post mortem the vets found that Mariam had consumed a quantity of plastic that may have been previously undetectable.

“Rest in peace Mariam, our little angel,” says the PMBC post.

Read some more about Mariam HERE.

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Phuket

Government MP receives death threats after exposing illegal condo project in Phuket

The Thaiger

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Government MP receives death threats after exposing illegal condo project in Phuket | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Sira Jenjaka MP, says he has received death threats

A government MP for Bangkok says he has received death threats for revealing a Phuket condo project that allegedly sits on land without the proper documentation. The project, at this stage, remains un-named.

Sira Jenjaka is an MP with the ruling Palang Pracharat Party and claims that two people had already died as a result of revealing the problems with the project.

He alleges the land documents had been revoked by the Administrative court in the past and says he will petition the Justice Ministry to have the project probed by the DSI (Department of Special Investigation).

Mr Sira says the un-named condo project, located in Tambon Karon (below), occupies land where the Nor Sor 3 Kor land ownership papers were revoked by the Administrative Court. He has alleged that the project is owned by a “retired high-ranking policeman”.

“If government officials were found to be involved in the alleged malpractice, the state could be sued for damages worth billions of baht”, according to a quote in the Bangkok Post.

He said that the potential buyers of the condominium apartments are mostly foreigners.

Mr Sirat said he planned to ask the Phuket governor to suspend the local mayor for alleged negligence in connection with the condominium project. He will also speak to the Phuket governor suspend construction of the project and cancel any contractor’s licences.

The MP says that some state officials may have their authority and been complicit in the approval of the Nor Sor 3 Kor document.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Government MP receives death threats after exposing illegal condo project in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Manager Online

Government MP receives death threats after exposing illegal condo project in Phuket | News by The Thaiger

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Environment

Turtle rescued on Nai Harn Beach, Phuket

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Turtle rescued on Nai Harn Beach, Phuket | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Aroon Solos

Today (August 15) at about 1pm, the lifeguard team at Nai Harn Beach rescued a small turtle, which had become stuck in a fertiliser sack.

They found the turtle washed up ashore with the sack wrapped up around its neck. They tried to carefully remove the sack from the turtle’s neck but found that the turtle had been injured around the neck so they contacted the Phuket Marine Biological Centre to take the turtle back to the centre for further examination and treatment.

Well done to the lifesavers at Nai Harn.

VIDEO: Rawai Mayor Aroon Solos

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