Universal Children’s Day commemorated on Thai-Burma border
November 27, 2013
WCRP: Nearly 1,000 children and community members living near the Thai-Burma border joined events last weekend to commemorate Universal Children’s Day on November 20. Families from Bleh Don Phite and Palain Japan villages in New Mon State Party (NMSP)-administered areas participated in the festivities, with activities also organized in the Karen village of Htee Wa Doe. On the Burma side of the border town of Three Pagodas Pass, over 500 students, teachers, monks, and local residents attended celebrations held at the Dama Hay Won Karen School.
Organizers gave speeches highlighting child rights and protection responsibilities along with risks associated with the widespread trade in drugs along the border. The Border Heath Initiative (BHI) and other ethnic Mon community groups coordinated the events in concert with the NMSP, the predominant ethnic Mon resistance group. Staff from BHI, an organization based in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand, that provides health services in hard-to-reach areas inside Burma’s eastern border, reported that parents and teachers successfully helped oversee the day’s activities.
“We served milk to the children in the early morning and [later] provided lunch,” said BHI Director Mi Seik Kamar. “The events included different games like football, sprinting, painting, poem readings, and answering trivia questions about basic healthcare knowledge and child rights. The children seemed very happy with the activities.”
Mon community-based organizations started to observe Universal Children’s Day in NMSP-controlled areas near Halockhani camp for internally displaced people in 2006 and Bananbane in 2012.
“I got a chance to compete in running, jumping, sack races, and football. Our group won an award so we were all so happy. I hope the other children were happy, too. I would like for this kind of event to be held again next year,” said 10-year-old Mehm Chan who attended the festivities at Palain Japan.
In observance of Universal Children’s Day, the Woman and Child Rights Project (WCRP) also released its report, “Children for Hire: A portrait of child labor in Mon areas,” to illustrate the incidence of child labor in rural Mon communities and along Burma’s border with Thailand.