My recent trip to Burma – Myanmar and Thailand proved very interesting and rewarding. I visited Rangoon (Yangon), the northern Shan State and southern Thailand. In each area we support a significant number of projects led by local groups that are doing extremely well. The generous funding from our donors has allowed us to continue our work successfully in these areas.
When I arrived in Rangoon I was surprised at the large number of new cars that crowded the streets. The government has lowered tariffs and excise taxes on new cars in an attempt to get the old junkers off the streets. While Rangoon bustles with activity from large numbers of international companies seeking business opportunities and big international nongovernmental organizations, the areas where we work in the outlying areas of Yangon are little changed.
Inflation remains a big problem for ordinary people. Wages (when people can find work) are not keeping up with the rising prices of every day commodities such as food, gas and clothing. I believe the increased business activity now focused in Rangoon will take some time to filter down to ordinary people and begin improving their economic well being.
However, the excitement generated by political change has changed the attitudes of many people in the country. Generally people now have some hope of improving their lives, unlike the devastating gloom that persisted a few years ago.
While in the Rangoon area, I visited two monastery schools and a children’s library led by EN, one of our Rangoon-based local partners — as well as the PM HIV residence for women and orphans. Our local partners are doing great work in all these programs. Please check out our Burma – Myanmar Project Posts for more information on the details of these programs.
After Rangoon, I traveled to the northern Shan State. For as long as I have been going there (about 10 years), we have had only one dirty hotel to stay in (the only one where foreigners were allowed to stay). Now there is a very new and clear hotel in the middle of town which is very pleasant, so some change is occurring in the smaller cities. I spent several days there visiting many of our partners’ projects and interacting with their staff. I always enjoy my visits there, but this time I was especially happy to experience the growing quality and enthusiasm of our partners. They do wonderful work and it is comforting to know I need not worry about the quality of their work. Again, please check out our website and other publications to get more details about these programs.
I also spent several days in southern Thailand visiting our partners and learning centers there. It was my first time to visit this area and I was very impressed by how well our partners run these programs. Their staff is very professional and are working to solve some touchy problems. We know that if political change in Myanmar continues on the right course, many of these refugee children and their families eventually will return. So, we are beginning to adjust to this possibility by investigating options on how to reintegrate these families back to their homeland. So much work to do!
There is much more to tell about my trip and I am happy to talk via phone or email to anyone who would like to know more.
Thanks to all your support, our work continues to move forward and produce better lives for the people we touch.