10, May 2006 13:02
Dr. Cynthia: They are health workers who have been trained at the clinic or trained by international NGO’s on the border. So they come from different ethnic regions and after they learned for 2 – 3 years, they decide to go back and work with the Internally Displaced People. So they provide basic clinical service as well as education, health education or training for the community health volunteers or working with community midwifes.
Speaker: Now although some people have compared you with mother Teresa, as you’ve said, but let me read a quick note from the Burmese government. This is their version. They say that you are an absconder, an insurgent, an opium smuggling terrorist. And they’ve said, and I quote again, any attempt to deny this is as futile as covering the rotting carcass of an elephant with a goat hide. How do you feel about that description of you by the Burmese military government?
Dr. Cynthia: I think we always hear this whenever they don’t like someone. They are never happy with the people who are not supporting their rules. Even some of our health workers, somewhere arrested and tortured. So this is they way to try to make people depressed and to oppress them.
Speaker: I want to ask you about your situation in Thailand. Its estimated that there are as many as 2 millions Burmese people who don’t have papers, aren’t officially there, illegally, and you are in that position. Given the relations between Thailand and Burma are getting better and better at the government level, do you feel at times squeezed, do you feel at times that you are unwelcome, you made to feel unwelcome by the Thai government.
Dr. Cynthia: ah, if we talk about the legal and the registration issue, it’s a very serious situation right now, because more and more Burmese people leave from Burma, even the situation in Thailand is not well. More people come out from Burma and every day we see children born without registration and without official documents. So people become stateless and this has very serious consequences for next generation. So the Burmese community in Mae Sot tries to find a better solution, to get more recognition from international community as well as from the local Thai community.
Speaker: But do you ever feel frightened, do ever feel that the Thai government might actually throw you out, perhaps might send you back to Burma where, as we’ve said, you are regarded as a terrorist.
Dr. Cynthia: Everybody is under oppression or afraid of arresting and deportation, but people are struggling to find a better solution.
Speaker: As we mentioned, your name is often revered by certainly Burmese people, something that you should become a saint, you should receive a sainthood. How strange is it for you to think of you as Saint Cynthia? Is it odd?
Dr. Cynthia: Oh. I don’t think like that, because chose this job. So the more I stay here I learn about the children, women and elderly people, as well as the system. Whenever we attend a conference about Burma health problems and Burma system becomes an issue for the international and regional area. So this encourages as to strengthen our network with our local colleagues and also international groups. So with the help and support from people I think we can continue. Because this is the way what we chose. This is the job what we want.
Speaker: But Dr. Cynthia, I know many Burmese people who fled in 1988 and went on to very comfortable and wealthy existences in America, in Europe. Why did you choose not to do that but to stay in this country where you are really not very welcome and work in the way that you do?
Dr. Cynthia: A few people have this opportunity, but there are still thousands of people staying in Burma who can not have this opportunity. So we have to encourage and empower them and than to save our generation for our country.
Speaker: Now. You are living with your husband. You’ve got 3 children, 2 of your own and one that you’ve adopted. Do they know anything about Burma? Do they have a future in Burma?
我先生在1989年的時候跟我一起工作過，他自己也是在那時候逃到泰國邊境。之後我們又再遇見，然後結婚。對於那時整個情勢轉變過程，他也是都參與其中的。我的孩子們，則是因為從小就在緬甸社區長大， 也有泰國朋友，他們很清楚泰國人與緬甸人的不同；也從學校來自緬甸的孩子們身上，知道了 緬甸的生活情況等等。我想因為常常接觸，所以他們都知道的。
Dr. Cynthia: Yes. Because since 1989 my husband and we work together. So we know everything. So even himself he fled to the border during that period, so we met in Mae Sot and married here. So he knows about the situation. And then my children also learn about the situation because the are growing up in the Burmese community and at the same time we had some Thai friends. So they know what is the difference between Burmese and Thai people. And in their school they meet with many Burmese children and then children are talking about their lives and their parents, the situation, and so they all know already about the situation in Burma.
Speaker: And today, when you think about the political situation in Burma, when you think about the medical system which is so run down. What are your feelings?
Dr. Cynthia: Still the military is very oppressing as well as their has been no positive development or negotiation process between the Burmese ethnics and the regime. But many people know the responsibilities, but there has been no opportunity to talk freely and to negotiate feely on the political stage. So we still have to encourage on different levels. But we have to start practicing respect for people as a citizen or as a community member. So we bring younger generations to actively participate in health care as well as in some social change.
Speaker: And are you, in spite of the situation that you describe in Burma, still hoping that one day you can take your children back, go back with your husband and be reunited once again with your own family, your brothers and sisters?
Dr. Cynthia: Yes. Because also my mother passed away, but my children always want to see their cousins and their aunts and uncles. So we really want to stay in Burma because we grew up in Burma and we never forget about our child life. So everybody expect to go back and see.
Speaker: And how do you think you’ll feel when your feet touch Burmese soil for the first time in so many years?
Dr. Cynthia: Whenever we cross the border, because sometimes we also cross the border and there are some villagers or some communities living there, whenever we cross the border this makes us very strong as well it makes as very sad sometimes.
Speaker: Cynthia Maung, thank you very much for talking to my, thank you very much for being my guest.
Dr. Cynthia: Thank you.