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My Story

I am a former political refugee from the Burma-Thailand border and comes from an ethnic Karen background. Both of my maternal and paternal grandfathers were members of the Karen National Union (KNU), a democratic political organization that has been waging war against the Burmese military junta (also known as the Tatmadaw) since Burma gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. Due to the world’s longest ongoing civil war, many Karen people were internally displaced. I was born as a stateless person in Mae Sot, Thailand to parents from Karen State, Burma. In 1988, the Tatmadaw killed thousands of protestors across Burma. However, the government’s official count was 350. In 1995, the Tatmadaw captured Manerplaw, the headquarters of KNU, and thousands of Karen people fled. As a child, I spent several nights in the jungle before finding temporary safety in a refugee camp provided by the Thai government.


I spent my formative years bouncing around several refugee camps. Even after leaving and being undocumented in Bangkok, Thailand, I still experienced fear of being deported to Burma, a country I had never been to. At age 11, with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I immigrated to the U.S. with my mother and older brother, settling in Connecticut. I became a naturalized U.S. citizen through the derivation of citizenship law. At 17, I finally belonged to a country. I graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree.


After college, I moved to Colorado and worked in my community, and became a member of the Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission. I worked both in the public and private sectors. Now, I am a freelance court interpreter in my native language S’gaw Karen, in an open court, a language so taboo to speak in public as a child in fear of deportation.

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