Book Response: Undaunted: My Struggle for Freedom and Survival in Burma

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Burma has suffered through one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. The Karen, a minority ethnic group in the eastern mountainous region of Burma, has been fighting for a federal system instead of a dictatorship. In the late 1940s, the Karen created the Karen National Union (KNU) to fight for an independent Karen state but switched to fight for a federal system for peoples’ freedom from oppression in the 1970s. After the failure of peaceful negotiations, the KNU waged war against the central government. Undaunted by Zoya Phan is an autobiography about the challenges and injustices Zoya faced and continues to face as an ethnically Karen person. At fourteen years old, Zoya and her family had to flee their village through the jungle to a refugee camp. As a refugee herself, Zoya raises in her book the many challenges the Karen faced in regard to their collective sense of identity and security. In contrast to the Karen’s struggles as refugees, Thailand as the refugee accepting state, also faces immigration challenges with the tens of thousands of people flooding into the country. In order to address the challenges both the Karen refugees and Thailand face, a collaborative summit needs to take place between the United Nations, NGOs, political organizations (KNU), and the participating governments to set clearly defined roles to ensure the safety and basic needs of refugees, while effectively addressing Thailand’s concerns.

Life as a refugee posed various challenges to the Karen’s sense of identity. The use of guerilla style warfare between the resistance and the Burmese Army displaced tens of thousands of refugees into camps in Thailand and hidden in the jungles (139). Fighting against the clear challenges of health, food, ...

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...rate then formally into the Thai economy. Additionally, security measures could be addressed between Burma and Thailand agreeing to keep conflicts within the country’s individual borders or risk sanctions. In terms of Thailand’s immigration concern, by registering the refugees and allowing greater access to food, educational, medical, and work opportunities refugees would be less inclined to leave the camps. While the summit could help collaborate the actors to create the most effective solutions for both parties, ultimately the best way to address the challenges of each is the have peaceful negotiations between the Burmese Army and the KNU that successfully end the civil war, allowing the refugee’s to return home as free independent people.

Works Cited

Phan, Zoya. Undaunted: My Struggle for Freedom and Survival in Burma. New York: Free Press, 2009. Print.

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