‘When I First Came Here … They Hated the Burmans’: Burman Teacher Who Married a Mon Soldier

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Burma Link | August 30, 2016

 Daw Khin Nyunt is a 46-year-old Buddhist Burman woman living in rural New Mon State Party (NMSP) controlled ceasefire areas of southeast Burma. Daw Khin Nyunt comes from the city and would never have imagined to live in the ‘rebel’ controlled jungle border areas and marrying a Mon soldier. Along the way, she has had to not only shed her own prejudices but also help the ethnic community members accept her as not their enemy. Having been living together and teaching the children in these disadvantaged ethnic displaced communities for years, Daw Khin Nyunt has finally earned the trust of the communities. The area is home to about 35,000 IDPs (internally displaced persons) who have fled surrounding areas to live under the patronage of the NMSP and its armed wing Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA). Daw Khin Nuynt herself left Burma after the 8888 uprising and met her husband in a monastery in Bangkok.

 

“When 8888 uprising happened, I went to Bangkok”

 I am from Moulmein. I am 46 years old. I am Burmese and Buddhist. In my house, [it’s] me and my husband. My children are in Moulmein. I arrived last year. Now I have been here [in the NMSP controlled IDP site] for 1 year and 2 months. My husband’s duty is here. And also the village needed a teacher. [Before we came here,] he was in Pa Kyo, which is at the Thailand and Burma Border. I was there for 6 months. I was giving tuition.

We met in Bangkok. When 8888 uprising happened, I went to Bangkok. When the uprising happened, I was just on grade 10. But I was not involved there, I went to Thailand because of my family economics. My parents could not work.

I have a younger sister and brother who were studying. My father is traditional doctor. At the time when the uprising happened, no one came to our house for cures.  My father did not have income. My mother was still in the house and doing house work. We have 7 brother and sisters. I have 3 older siblings, and also I have two younger brothers and one younger sister. They all are in Moulmein [capital of Mon State]. When I went to Bangkok, I went with my friend.

 

“If you need help, you can go to this place […] We took a taxi and went to that place”

When I was on my way to Bangkok, I had to enter to Mae Sot for a couple of days and then I went to Bangkok. I had to work with my friend in one of the Thai bosses’ houses. At the time, my friend was pregnant. Even though we were friends, we just knew each other from when we were in Mae Sot. I didn’t know my friend was pregnant. The boss came to ask me, “Does your friend have a pregnancy?” The boss called the doctor and checked her. After that, because she was pregnant, the boss did not accept her for the job. As for me, I didn’t want to work alone at their house so we quickly left together from the Thai boss’s house. At first we didn’t know where we should go.

At that time, I remembered something about an address card [that I got] when I was in Mae Sot. One of the Broker men gave me an address card and he said, “If you need help, you can go to this place. That place is a Burmese monastery in Bangkok.”  We took a taxi and went to that place. When I arrived there he, [the man] who would be my husband, was also there for curing for his injury.

We were in the monastery for two months. We tried to find a job but it was not ok for us. The jobs would only accept me. As for my friend who had the situation with her pregnancy, she did not get any jobs. And also both of us did not have any document for living [there legally].

 

“I want the youth to be educated”

I started falling in love with the Mon soldier in the monastery. I followed him.

At the time he got duty in Pa Kyot on the Thailand-Burma border. [Now] I am teaching in the village. I want the youth to be educated. When I first came here the villagers from here, especially the students, they hated the Burmans. Actually they hated the Burmese government, but they hated all Burman people. Afterward, I tried to persuade the villagers and my students that I was not part of the government. I am just a Burman person like the other ethnicities.

I didn’t look down on the people from here. I tried to persuade them. Some people had never even arrived in Ye, so that’s why they had less knowledge. I never looked down on them.

When I was student, if we didn’t have the ability or were not qualified to study we could not go to the next grade. Now a student cannot proceed whether they are qualified or not. As for me, I want students to be qualified and ready to study for the next grade.

In this village, the school has until grade 5. I have to teach Burmese, English, Math, and science in Burmese language.  Only I have to teach grade 5 because until grade 4 they teach in Mon language. In this school, we have Mon, Burman, and Karen teachers. The students are multi-ethnic.

 

“In the rainy season the cars can’t go anywhere”

[Moulmein is] very very different, Moulmein is a city. Here is even no phone connection. In the city we can get internet and phone connection. It is good. In here, even if we have a phone we can’t talk. If we have really important [reason] to talk we have a line phone shop. In the past we had really challenges to call on the phone. Now we have 10 phone shops.

Sometimes I was imagining about if we had a phone signal tower post, that would be great for communication. Then everybody could have a phone. This is my imagination. It has not happened and every time if we need to call we have run to the phone shop.

The transportation has become good. In the past the roads were really bad. On February of 2015 they started to repair the road. In the rainy season the cars can’t go so the people tie the chains on the car wheels. This is very dangerous. [The road] has just finished on our village side. [But] there is one thing really bad about the dust in the air spreading to the environment because the road is being repaired and people are living with unclean air.

 

“Burma education system needs to make sure students to be qualified to go next grade”

This is a big concern with government as I think. As we are teachers we must be a good guide and teach the students. Every child can’t go to school. The older children take care of their brothers and sisters. Even though they have class in school they are not coming regularly. In the past the children were not interested in study. The children are helping their parents with jobs as well.

I want the children to be educated persons. I don’t want to see the children doing tiring jobs. Nowadays, in this village, the children are not matched with their grade and age. The children’s ages are old and their grade is low.

The first time I came to this village the children were not polite. When I became a teacher, I tried to teach them to be polite. During school lunch times I call the student telling Buddhists stories to them. When the long holiday happens I call the students and teach about basic Buddhist bible and telling story as well.

2016-08-31T10:23:00+00:00 August 30th, 2016|Stories|