WHAT IS A REFUGEE?
Ref-u-gee: a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution - Merriam-Webster Dictionary
WHO ARE THE KAREN PEOPLE?
The Karen group, pronounced kah- REN, is one of over 100 ethnic groups found within Burma. Each group is characterized by different beliefs, languages, demographics and cultural practices. As the largest ethnic group in Burma, the Karen have led the nation’s resistance to Burma’s military dictatorship. The Karen National Union (KNU) desire that the current military government peacefully transition into a well-organized and functional democracy. As an organization, their mission is as follows: To establish a genuine Federal Union in cooperation with all Karen and all the ethnic peoples in the country for harmony, peace, stability and prosperity for all. More information
People within the Karen ethnic group typically live along the mountainous and heavily forested Thailand-Burma border region in Southeast Asia. Situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, this area is within the monsoon region in Asia and floods and landslides are common. Most villages are found in small forest clearings and are comprised of small bamboo and thatch houses. Traditionally, the Karen people live as rotational farmers, planting a large variety of vegetables and herbs. There are over 387 different local food species! The combination of climate, land fertility and scarce industrialization has resulted in this rich biodiversity.
Because of political turmoil, many Karen and other ethnic groups have been forced to seek asylum in Thailand refugee camps and more recently in the United States.
LIFE IN AMERICA
Since 2006, about 55,000 Burmese refugees have been resettled in the United States. Many of them came from the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand. According to records 5,408 refugees from Burma have entered N.C. since 2007. This doesn’t account for internal migration. The International Rescue Committee helps prepare refugees for the culture shock of life in America yet a transition to a completely different world takes time.
Below is a short video showing a family who faced this remarkable journey.
Refugees in the Triangle
Country Profile – Myanmar (Burma)
Karen Cultural Profile
Archive of articles about this Refugee population