I’ll be writing in this space for the next couple of weeks about my experience interning here with Thabyay Education Network, an NGO with the aim to create social change and a civil society within Burma through higher education. Thabyay, based in Chiang Mai, also operates in the Thai-Burma border area of Mae Sot and within Burma. Our work spans across different fields related to education and capacity building. This includes providing and administering scholarships for Burmese students to study abroad for university, running examination preparation programs and language training and designing affordable, context-related learning material for the out-of-date school system among other projects. My work here mainly involves the scholarship and student support side of things, providing student support and academic evaluations of courses, writing up alumni profile, promoting the organization to universities etc.
The upcoming posts will cover more about the situations facing Thailand and Burma in the recent years, about the education conditions within Burma, as well as situations along the Thai-Burma border where I visit, meeting migrants and refugees and seeing first-hand the tensions along the area, and hopefully include a visit into the refugee camps nearby.
Let me end my first entry with an interesting experience on Sunday. While strolling along the famed Chiang Mai Sunday Market as a tourist, I ran into my colleague Steve who invited me to join an undercover gathering with the mission to celebrate Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s 66th Birthday. The plan of the day, kept secret until hours before, was to hold a flash mob at one of the central junctions, singing the “Happy Birthday” song three times. The event turned out to be a hybrid of a flash mob and a street promotion, where the crew of around thirty handed out thousands of postcards and held up our placards before chanting the birthday song in public. As the organizers explained to me, the reason why the entire celebration had to be held discretely is because the Thai government had promised the military junta of Burma to prohibit any actions that might destabilize situations in Burma happening on their soil, seeing Burma as a significant trading partner not to be upset. Nonetheless the event did manage to raise some awareness on the situations amongst a diverse audience of locals and tourists.
Disclaimer: I’ve chosen to refer to the country as ‘Burma’ over ‘Myanmar’ to express my personal opinions on the military junta. Like the rest of the article, I am not representing my organization’s views on these matters.