Burmese Refugee Camp

Cavelle recently travelled to Mae Sot to visit a Burmese refugee camp there. Our last blog explained a little of the situation. Much could be said about the visit, but one event in particular stands out.

Over the course of her time in Mae Sot Cavelle had the opportunity to meet with a group of high level pro-democracy leaders. They had all journeyed for days to make the appointment and risked their lives to do so. This was not, however, the first time these people had encountered danger. All of them have spent many years in jail simply because they believe the country deserves better than a un-elected, brutal military junta. One gentleman's story was particularly impactful. He had endured prison for 15 years. He had been starved and tortured and yet when given the opportunity to choose between freedom and give up his fight for democracy, he chose to remain true to the cause. The government offered him freedom if he would only agree to stop his work advocating for a free Burma. He refused and was promptly returned to prison for another four years. Since his release he has continued with his work. He has little to personally gain for his efforts. He willingly offers his adult life, his security and safety because he believes in the rightness of his convictions.

The temptation is to use his example as only a personal challenge. Certainly, it's worth asking if we would do the same for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you can be sure we have done some personal soul-searching. But, if we only use this story for personal reflection--as worthy as that is--we may forget him. And I don't want to forget him, nor the hundreds of others who tonight sleep in a cold cell, or stand guard in a jungle outpost, or the hundreds of thousands who remain hungry because those who have been entrusted to care for the security and well-being of a nation, can do little more terrorize their own people.

The question has been asked what can we do? We are gathering information to better answer that question. We believe the our government would value seeing more support from Canadians in any effort they make to deal with this issue. We will confirm what avenues are best for those who wish to support the people of Burma. We realize there are many needs in our world, and this is only one--but for us, it is one need that keeps on coming back into our lap. So we pray and look for realistic ways to show our neighbours that they are not forgotten.


Pictures: Top refugee camp main street; school; school children; mother and child




Who is My Neighbour?

Today Cavelle, along with Melissa two of our Thai staff and a Canadian Embassy official travel to Mae Sot in Thailand. They will visit a refugee camp on Monday, and spend considerable time with individuals and agencies helping Burmese suffering under the militray government in Burma (also known as Myanmar). Burma is Thailand's neighbour, and the relative prosperity here makes it easy to forget about the atrocities happening next door. But unspeakable things do happen and deserve to be spoken. The consequence of the situtation in Burma means in Thailand close to 1 million Burmese live here legally and illegally trying to escape the hell of their home. Hundreds of thousands of these people live in refugee camps on Thailands borders. They have been there for over 20 years now with no hope of going home. Burma is not the only needy country in our broken world, but for us it is our neighbour and the situation there often weighs heavily on our heart. We have included and excerpt from a recent Op/ed piece in the Bangkok Post by Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Peter Gabrial to give you a little insight into what is happening today in Burma.

"Today, the world finds itself at odds with another brutal military junta in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, which continues to incarcerate Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Suu Kyi's "crime" is being loved by the people of Burma. Her political party won 82 per cent of the seats in parliament in Burma's last democratic election, only to have the results annulled by the ruling military junta. She has remained locked up for 10 of the past 17 years. Many people of Burma fare much worse, suffering the most severe forms of torture.

The situation for ethnic minorities in the country is even worse. The military regime rules by brute force, oppressing and relocating hundreds of thousands of ethnic minorities who stand in opposition to its rule. Two thousand eight hundred villages have been burned down or otherwise destroyed in eastern Burma alone, some repeatedly, to force ethnic minorities to move to military-controlled areas. As a result, there are over one million Burmese refugees, and over half a million internally displaced people (IDPs). The situation for both groups is dire. For example, refugees like Naanh Hla (not her real name), a Shan woman, who was 16 years old and seven months pregnant when 10 Burmese soldiers kidnapped and killed her husband and gang-raped her to the point that she gave birth prematurely alone in the jungle, or Naw Paw Paw, who recounted to Burma Issues - a group working with the human-rights organisation WITNESS - how she lost four of her six children, two on the same day, over the course of many years fleeing through the jungle.

In the past four months, the worst attacks in a decade have displaced almost 20,000 people. Yet the junta continues to cut off international access to areas of ongoing conflict, which has precluded aid to IDPs, a violation of international humanitarian law. Even in Sudan, humanitarian agencies are permitted access; not so in eastern Burma.

If caught by the military, IDPs are often either killed on the spot or forced to become porters or labourers with little or no pay. Female porters are often systematically raped at night by officers and soldiers. Forced labourers are often required to build roads for the military, making it near impossible for them to grow their own crops.

The junta military also targets children. According to Human Rights Watch, there are up to 70,000 children conscripted into the army, more than any other country in the world. Some conscripted "soldiers" are as young as eleven." Please remember Cavelle and her team over the weekend, and please remember Burma.



Welcome Melissa George!

This past week we welcomed our newest partner--Melissa George. Melissa is from North Vancouver, BC and is a Missionary in Training apprentice with the BC/Yukon District of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. This is a three year program designed to train young leaders for long-term missionary service. Melissa has spent the past year working at the District Office with Next Generation Ministries, and now will be based here in Bangkok and focusing on New Generation Ministries at Jaisamarn Church. She will also help in hosting teams who come to Thailand. On Monday she begins to formally learn the Thai language. If you wish to keep up with events in Melissa's life you can check out her blog at the following address: We're really excited to have Melissa with us so please keep her in mind when you're praying for Thailand!


Some of Our Teammates in Thailand

Some of the people we work with. From top to bottom Andrew from Newfoundland, will be teaching English in Takua Pa, South Thailand. Andrew is also a musician, loves ice cream and a good guy to watch the World Cup with; Next pic:Oum is our children's pastor. Oum will be one of our first Thai cross-cultural missionaries when she goes to Nepal later this year; Next pic: Ly-Mei, is Cavelle's full-time assistant heading up ERDO projects in the south. She is incredibly organized and efficient. She also has a weakness for mashed potatoes. Next pic: Tim, Yoke and Nuch from New Generation Ministry. Tim works with youth, Yoke with Campus. Nuch is our former Campus Intern and now works with Cavelle assisting with her embassy work. All three have been to Canada.


So what's Cavelle up to?

So what's Cavelle up to? I mean besides chasing after Matthew, being pregnant with another and trying to make sure Peter says on the straight and narrow. Well, she balances a few things: on behalf of ERDO--Emergency, Relief and Development Overseas--the humanitarian arm of the PAOC, Cavelle continues to oversee staff and projects in Thailand. This includes the monthly sponsorship of 70 tsunami-impacted children in two schools, the set-up and operating of a daycare on Phi Phi Island, and responding to new disasters, like the recent flooding and mudslide in northern Thailand that buried dozens of people and left 100,000 people homeless.

As well Cavelle sits on the Board of the Jaisamarn Foundation. This is a foundation linked to our local church. Their current project is building a senior's residential complex for the elderly on land donated to the church outside of Bangkok. Cavelle is involved in helping to raise over 1 million CAD budget for the project, as well as assist with the project oversight.

Finally, Cavelle is one of the key people fronting the Canadian government's effort to support peace and reconciliation in the deep south of Thailand. While the situation is not one that gets a lot of press in Canada, an on-going insurgency by separatist forces in the predominantly Muslim south of Thailand, has led to the deaths of about 1400 people in the last 18 months, most at the hands of the police and terrorist groups. Cavelle is busy travelling to the area on a regular basis and working with local groups and concerned citizens to come up with ideas to help those living in the area. The issues are complex; the majority Muslims in the area feel ostracized by the Thai government and treated as second class citizens; many do not speak the Thai language but speak a Malay dialect; corruption among government officials is epidemic; poverty is rampant and basic needs among the people such as clean water and access to medical care is lacking; hundreds of Muslim people have been apprehended under Thai military law and locked up in local detention centres without access to legal assistance and due process (and many would argue without evidence to support their crime); still hundreds others have disappeared without any knowledge of what has happened to them. There are no easy solutions to these difficulties but Cavelle is working with many local people to try to organize community based responses and implement local solutions.

What's interesting is that Cavelle has the opportunity to meet some the most significant Islamic leaders in Thailand. As a traditional missionary this would never happen. Very few of these individuals have ever met a Christian. Any opinion of Christianity would largely be shaped by their view of Western military action in the Middle East. So while Cavelle is not going to get on a soapbox and preach to these leaders, her life does speak about the kindness and grace of God. Please pray for Cavelle as she builds bridges with the people of Thailand's deep south.