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  Issue No 106 Official Organ of LaborNet 10 August 2001  

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Solidarity

On the Frontline


Australian trade unionists are providing practical help for the Burmese through projects funded by APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad.

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Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is assisting eight projects for refugees and migrant workers from Burma on the Thai-Burma border. These support medic training and mobile medical clinics, vocational training for refugee and displaced communities, schools for refugees as well as support to information and education-based radio programs for Shan and Karen speaking migrant workers in Thailand.

Projects with refugees on the Thai-Burma border include:-

· Women's vocational training and support for children living outside family structures at the Umphium Mai refugee camp - sponsored by the Australian Education Union

· Vocational training program with the All Burma Students Democratic Front - sponsored by the Australian Nursing Federation, Victorian Branch

· Mobile medical teams for displaced people with the Burma Relief Centre

· Radio training with the Migrant Assistance Program, providing Shan language programs for migrant workers in Thailand

With the continuing repression by the SPDC inside Burma, over 350,000 refugees have fled Burma, living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, over 136,000 of them on the Thai border. (BBC Update 10/7/01). The border region is virtually a war zone with frequent military operations against the refugees.

The Umphium Mai Refugee Camp

Life in the refugee camps is harsh, uncertain and lacking in many basic services we take for granted. The Umphium Mai Refugee Camp is situated 40 kilometers from the Thai city of Mae Sot in the Tak province. The terrain is hilly, with little vegetation, and the thousands of people living here struggle with severe cold during the winter months.

Through this project, the Karen Refugee Camps Women's Development Group (KRCWDG) is supporting school aged children living outside of their family structures - these children may have lost parents in the conflict or may be living outside of the family for other reasons. The group supports their education and integration into the community through providing basic necessities along with particular educational activities. These are children who are marginalised within the camp and may not otherwise have access to education or other social support.

A number of the women working with the KRCWDG are young, and have spent all of their lives in refugee camps. Their energy and optimism are remarkable. The project provides training opportunities for these and other isolated young women in the refugee camp. They are the future leaders of their community. Workshops have been conducted in office management and typing, leadership training, English language training, repatriation and refugee issues, human rights, reproductive health, HIV education and landmine awareness. Through such workshops, women are brought together to discuss their issues and to encourage each other in their work. Through the project, some women have had opportunities for internships with other Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA partner organisations working on the Thai-Burma border to further develop their skills.

Vocational training with ABSDF

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, with funding support from the Australian Nursing Federation - Victorian Branch, is assisting the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) to deliver basic medical training to paramedics at Wei Gyi refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.

With no government spending on health for refugees living in the border region, the training of community health workers is considered a priority.

The training is conducted by the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF), a student activist organisation formed in 1988 and a key member of the democracy movement for 13 years. These students have lived in border camps with makeshift buildings, lacking medical professionals and medical supplies, and experiencing a shortage of food and insufficiency of clothing to combat the cold seasons. Since 1988 the student leaders have been taking care of members and families in various camps through health, education and supplies departments. They also provide medical services to communities displaced by the Burmese military's operations in the border areaas.

Although they have some medical set up, there are insufficient skilled medics to extend the health care and education programs in areas where there are many ethnic people with little education and awareness of health care; or to deal with health problems as a result of poverty and the impact of the world's longest running civil war. This project aims to address this shortage of medical services, to upgrade people's living standards, and to provide for the health care needs of the people.

Training in the Wei Gyi student camp near Mae Sariang - Mae Hong Son province (Thailand) began in September 2000. The curriculum covers anatomy and physiology; nursing care; obstetrics and gynaecology; microbiology; public health; surgery; curative medicine and child care

After the six months theoretical training, the paramedics will undergo a further six months supervised practical work before being assigned to work in a number of camps and communities in the border region.

The training was delivered by doctors who work in the Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot (a clinic also assisted by Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA) as well as by senior medical students who were forced to flee Burma as refugees.

YOU can directly help

You can assist these refugees and migrant workers and their families fight for their rights to freedom, justice, the right to organise and a decent standard of living by joining Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA's work. Join the Global Justice Program by making a monthly, tax-deductible donation of $10 or more, or make a one-off donation. Ring today on (02) 9264 9343 or email on [email protected]

Link to APHEDA website


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*    Visit APHEDA

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 106 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: In Exile
Burmese's government in exile's Minister for Justice U Thein Oo talks about a struggle for democracy that has become a test of international solidarity.
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*  Politics: A National Disgrace
Labor's IR spokesman Arch Bevis gives his take on the workers entitlements issue and its mismanagement by the Howard Government.
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*  E-Change: 2.2 The Information Organisation
Peter Lewis and Michael Gadiel look at how network technologies will change the way organizations operate in the Information Age.
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*  Media: The Fine Print
Mark Hebblewhite looks at how the major dailies handled the Tri-Star dispute and finds that the story really does depend on the telling.
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*  Human Rights: A People Besieged
Labor MLC Janelle Saffin, an active supporter of the pro-Democracy movement in Burma, sets out the issues behind the ILO sanctions.
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*  International: Postcard From Brazil
The CFMEU’s Phil Davey reports on a rural movement that puts our National Farmers Federation to shame.
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*  History: Indonesia Calling
They needed no resolutions. Soldiers and workers who did not know one another moved together, the black ban started to reach out across the harbour from the noisy, smoke-filled room.
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*  Solidarity: On the Frontline
Australian trade unionists are providing practical help for the Burmese through projects funded by APHEDA-Union Aid Abroad.
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*  Satire: Skase 'Too Ill' to Fly Home for Burial
Spanish authorities have deemed Christopher Skase too ill to return to Australia for his own funeral.
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*  Review: Living Silence
In these extracts from her new book, Christina Fink goes inside Burma to find a world where military repression is slowly crushing a people.
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News
»  Revealed: ABC Censors Industrial Reporting
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»  WorkCover Revisited – Public Sector Laws Rammed Through
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»  Bras First in Burma Boycotts
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»  Tri Star Only the Start of Entitlements Push
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»  New Spying Tactics Hit Work Cars
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»  Howard’s Secret Anti-Worker Plans
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»  Direct Action to Increase Nurses' Worth
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»  High Court: Courier Was Employee
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»  Victory for Academic Freedom
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»  Put A Stop To Acoustic Shock
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»  Builders' Bucks: Payroll Tax Evasion Rife
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»  Tassie Workers Brew Up a Storm
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»  HIH Collapse Hits Arts Industry
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»  Labour for Hire Not Entitlements
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»  Rail Inquiry Into Treatment of Homeless
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»  ACTU Awards To Reward Union Excellence
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»  Activist Notebook
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  The Soapbox
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Letters to the editor
»  Botsman Goes Crosby
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»  Left Right Out
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»  Belly's Shout
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»  Ode to the New Serfs
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