As fighting in Burma escalates, Burmese in GA brace themselves
PLUS: A preview of “The Third Country” - documentary about Georgia’s growing Burmese community.
Trailer for “The Third Country” - a documentary about how three young Burmese in Georgia have navigated growing up in the South. Produced by Tomorrow Pictures, in partnership with 285 South, with support from The Pivot Fund. Full film to be released in January 2024.
Kaeden Tun left Burma when he was 13 years old. The initial years in Metro Atlanta weren’t easy for him and his family - they encountered many of the challenges so many newly arriving families face - language barriers, navigating schools, and building a life here with news out of Burma ever present in their minds, hearts, and phones.
Now, as a 28 year old, he works as a data manager at the CDC and is on track to receive a Masters degree in Public Health from Georgia State University next year. But life for the friends he went to school with as a child has turned out very differently. Some of them, he said, are hiding in Burma, for opposing the military led government. Others are living in refugee camps in Thailand.
These days he’s worried for them and his relatives, who are part of the Karen minority, even more than usual.
Since October 27, fighting between Burma’s military junta and a coalition of armed resistance fighters, made up of members of different ethnic minorities, has escalated. The violence has been spreading - from Shan State to the northwest and southeast parts of the country. Over half a million people have been displaced since then, and nearly 200 civilians killed. The UN has said the violence is “the largest in scale and most extensive geographically” since the coup in 2021. And the human rights situation is “bad and getting exponentially worse.”
The fighting hasn’t reached his extended family who live in the cities of Yangon and Pyay, but it has had an impact on their lives. “They’re saying how hard it is, how expensive everything is,” he said. “If you go outside, it’s much stricter now because of everything…it’s going to be much harder each day, because the fighting is coming.”
For more than a decade, Burma has consistently been one of the top three countries of origin for refugees arriving in Georgia, and many of those who have arrived here are from the country’s minority groups and have fled state repression - like the Karen, Chin, and Rohingya.
Kaeden said his mom is fearful of the growing violence. “The older generation is still struggling with being scared because they don't want what happened in the past [to happen] again because they know how gruesome it can get.”
Some community members here are organizing to provide humanitarian assistance to those impacted by the violence back home, but, says Kaeden, it's all done quietly. “It is hard to do it openly, because I don't think people want to get targeted.
Kaeden says he isn’t scared, partly because he left so long ago. “I just want to raise awareness about what's been happening over there. Because with everything else going on in the world…you don't hear about [Burma] anymore…but the fighting is still escalating.”
Learn more about Kaedun, and other young Burmese who grew up in Georgia, in the upcoming documentary “The Third Country,” produced by Tomorrow Pictures in partnership with 285 South, with support from The Pivot Fund.
The documentary, filmed over the course of a year in partnership with community members, zooms in on how they’ve navigated life in the South - from starting school without knowing English to seeing the toll chicken factory jobs took on their parents to forging a future that includes Georgia, and Burma.
Check out the trailer (at the top). The full film will be out in January 2024. Stay tuned for more details.
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