Undaunted : My Struggle for Freedom and Survival in Burma

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 5/4/2010
  • Publisher: Free Press

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Zoya Phan escaped the Burmese army in her native jungle and a Thai refugee camp to become the spokesperson of the Free Burma movement.

Table of Contents

About Burmap. xi
Burma Timelinep. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Grandfather Bent Backp. 1
The Almost-Dyingp. 11
Touching the Pigp. 23
The Bamboo Peoplep. 33
The Flower Childrenp. 37
River of Darknessp. 45
Victory Fieldp. 52
The River Spiritsp. 59
The Namingp. 64
Paradise Lostp. 73
Sleeping Dog Mountainp. 80
The River of Burning Tearsp. 91
Under the Big Treep. 102
No Refugep. 117
A Time of Darknessp. 121
The Journey Homep. 129
The New Villagep. 137
The Mission Songp. 147
Running from Bulletsp. 155
Refugees Againp. 165
Mae La Camp: Two Testsp. 174
Bangkok Dazep. 182
City Girlsp. 190
Back into the Land of Evilp. 200
The Reawakeningp. 208
Children of Darknessp. 214
London, with Bwa Bwap. 223
In the Footsteps of My Fatherp. 233
In the Firing Linep. 248
The Road Homep. 252
The Final Cutp. 260
Statement by Zoya Phan and Her Sisters and Brothers for Her Father's Funeralp. 265
Epiloguep. 267
The Phan Foundationp. 271
Other Organizations Working to Help Free Burmap. 273
Acknowledgmentsp. 275
Indexp. 277
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.



There are two Burmas. One you may have heard of, where a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leads our struggle for democracy against one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, where monks marched for freedom but were met with bullets, and where victims of the 2008 cyclone were denied international aid by the military dictatorship. But the other Burma, the Burma I am from, is less well known. I hope that through my story you will learn about this other Burma.

I am Karen, one of the ethnic groups in Burma. Out of sight in the mountains and jungles of eastern Burma, the Burmese dictatorship has been trying to wipe out my people. Millions have been forced to flee their homes. More villages have been destroyed in Burma than in Darfur in Sudan, but the world has seemed content to ignore our suffering. It’s been going on for more than sixty years.

Before the Burmese Army came to our land, I had a happy childhood. Karen land in eastern Burma seemed like paradise to me, a green mansion in which I played with my sister and brothers. Both my parents were activists in the struggle for democracy, and their work kept them very busy, but they loved us dearly.

But when I was fourteen years old my village was attacked by the Burmese Army. I had to run for my life, knowing that capture would mean being raped, used as slave labor, and then killed. After weeks of hiding in the jungle my family ended up in refugee camps in Thailand, which seemed more like prison camps, surrounded by barbed wire.

I am luckier than many of my fellow Karen. I managed to escape Burma twice after my home was attacked and to escape the refugee camps on the Burma-Thailand border, winning a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom.

Though I am safer now, living in London, I still don’t feel completely safe. I am on a hit list because of my political activities, and three attempts have been made on my life. The regime has not been successful in killing me, but they assassinated my father. He had been elected leader of the Karen resistance movement and was living in a small town on the Burma-Thailand border. On February 14, 2008, Valentine’s Day, he was shot dead in his home by gunmen sent by the dictatorship.

My father named me Zoya after a female Russian resistance fighter, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, who had fought the Nazis during World War II. When I was born he prayed that I would grow up to help my people in their struggle for freedom and democracy. I have done my best to fulfill his wishes. I now work with Burma Campaign UK, an organization campaigning for human rights, democracy, and development in Burma.

Burma is a beautiful country, full of people from diverse cultures and religions who want to live side by side in peace, different but equal. Like the Tibetans, whose indigenous culture is being systematically eradicated, the Karen lived for centuries in a peaceable isolation. Now we have been forced into a diaspora, our villages destroyed, our lives and traditions uprooted from the land in which they are anchored and to which our spirits are still tied. I am in constant communication with friends who still hope to return to Burma from the refugee camps on the Burma-Thailand border, with concerned humanitarians working to get aid into the interior where impoverished Karen and other minorities are still preyed on by Burmese soldiers. I return to Burma often in my dreams and thoughts, remembering my dear parents and their determination to help our people and our fight for democracy. I want to take you there, too, so you can feel the preciousness of our beautiful culture, so that you recognize in our struggle the struggle of all people for dignity, self-determination, and freedom.

The generals ruling Burma don’t want you to know what they are doing. They have tried to kill me to stop me speaking out. Please don’t let them have their way. Read on . . .

© 2010 Zoya Phan

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