October 28th 2016
Emmanuel School is a small primary school in Mae La refugee camp. The camp which has a population of 38,559 (August 2016 figure) is the largest of nine camps strung along the Thai-Burma border. It is about 40 km from the town of Mae Sot on the Thai side of the “Friendship Bridge” over the river from Burma/Myanmar.
The school is nominally Anglican, but is open to children of all religions and includes Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Animists. It originally became crucial to integrating new, often traumatised, arrivals from the war zones on the other side of the border. For some of these “internally displaced persons”, this was their first experience of formal education, something prized by the Karen. The school grew from a Sunday school attached to Emmanuel Church, into a primary school to accommodate the overflow from existing camp schools of the new arrivals. This was at a time of an escalation of the civil war within Karen State. Since January 2012 peace negotiations with the Burma Army have been ongoing. With the NLD’s landslide victory of 2015 and the recent “Panglong” conference there is hope of peace and a federal government. However despite these hopes, fighting recently broke out back home in Karen State between the Burma Frontier Guard Force and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army in September 2016 and many civilians fled.
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