A Chin Medical Student On Speech & Study Tour In The UK Chinland Guardian
6th November, 2006 [Note: A young talented Chin medical student, currently studying at Armenian Medical University in Armenia, Sasa is on his study and speech tour to the UK during his half-term holidays. Half-laughing, he said, “My dad said I was born in August 1980 but my mom argued that that was in June. It still remains unclear till today but I was born on 4th of October 1979 according to the official registration.” Pensively he continues, “This happened not only to me but also to many people whose parents are illiterate.” Born and raised in a small villages, Matupi township in southern Chin State, Burma, where there is no transportation, electricity and proper high school, he made his dream of studying abroad come true once his native village and three other villages nearby made a kind contribution for him. In this interview conducted by Van Biak Thang of Chinland Guardian, Sasa talks about his experience in the UK tour, his educational struggle from one place to another, health condition especially on children in Chin State and more …]
Chinland Guardian: Sasa, nice to see you here in London. This is the second trip to the UK on your study and speech tour. How different is it from the first one and are you focusing on anything in particular this time?
Sasa: It is a huge blessing to meet you. First of all, let me express my deepest appreciation to the Chinland Guardian for this opportunity and providing us this place to express our visions to all our people around the world. Well, there are lots of differences in terms of inspirations and experiences. During my first visit, I was hoping to meet with any Chin people here in the UK but unfortunately I had to return to Armenia without having a chance to meet any one. So, meeting and knowing you all now make a big difference; it is a huge privilege for me to experience once again that we, the Chin people, always have oneness in our inner being. I wish and pray that this feeling last forever unconditionally and I now realize that the geographically divided places, where we temporarily live, make no differences as long as we are clear about who we are. It also reminds me that this oneness feeling and unity among us is the way that can make our future successful and stronger in the entire sphere. This second visit mainly focuses on my medical experience which, I consider, will certainly be useful for the people back home and on getting to know more about healthcare and where to get medical helps for our people who have been losing their lives after unimaginable sufferings in the dark without having any basic medical care, which the rest of the world consider as every human being’s deserve. At the same time, whenever the door is open to speak, I mainly focus on health and education as well as religion.
Chinland Guardian: Are you representing any organisations?
Sasa: I am not representing any organization. I am on my own way with the vision that I have for our people. I am trying my best to represent our people through that vision, which is the purpose of my life and for which I will give up everything when necessary.
Chinland Guardian: How did you get to know these organisations who invite you to the UK like this?
Sasa: There is no any particular organization that invited me. I believed it’s just God who arranged my visit. In order to make it clearer, let me say in this way: one day when I was on summer holiday in Armenia in 2005, without knowing anything at all, I was miraculously invited to join a group of delegations from UK and USA to Armenia. I willingly joined the delegation and began to know them all. Especially I had a privilege to know the most wonderful and inspiring lady, Caroline, who led the delegation. She not only invited me to the UK but also did everything for my trip and all the arrangements including the chances to give a short speech at various places and even to the House of Lords.
Chinland Guardian:: What can you tell us about the reactions from the British public to your speeches on Chin, Burma?
Sasa: There are many people who care about our people and think about Burma. There are lots to tell about this issue. Let me tell you one thing that touches me so much: as you may be aware, there is an incredible history between the British and the Chin people since World War II. The Chins in those generations were well-known as brave and faithful people and I feel this is the duty of our generation to strengthen that relationship our ancestors had built. Many people shared with me their cares and concerns about Burma as a whole and our people. The only missing thing is the bridge that can connect the two sides for mutual recognition and benefit for both sides. There are many wonderful people who like to build a strong relationship like our forefathers did in the past but no proper bridge has reached out each other yet. I am inspired by seeing the true spirit of friendship and love which had already existed between the Chins and the British people. I am so happy when I receive many positive responses.
Chinland Guardian: By the way, how did you get a chance to further your medical study in Armenia?
Sasa: In 1997, I passed my matriculation from Yangon and unfortunately, I couldn’t go to University in Burma due to the closures of all universities in the country. So, I went to India and in 1999, I was eventually accepted at a college in Shillong from where I passed higher secondary examination with good marks. This allowed me to go to medical university in India or abroad. Then, I chose Armenian Medical University because it is much cheaper compared to those here in the UK and in the USA. Three rural villages including my native village made a contribution for my medical study and coming to Armenia in 2002. There are no words that can express my appreciation to those faithful and brave villagers.
Chinland Guardian: What made you go to India for your further study and how hard did you struggle to get qualified to become a medical student?
Sasa: Once I finished my middle school from my native village in 1995, I was forced to go out to study at high school. It was the most difficult time in my life to be separated from my family at that time. I just followed a traveller who was making his journey to Yangon. After passing my matriculation exams, and since all universities and colleges were shut down, I had no choice but to come back to my village. Then, I worked as a voluntary school teacher for almost two years after knowing that the students (my childhood friends) had no teachers. It was during these two years that changed my life miraculously. Spending my days in sweat and tears, I myself got involved in several serious occasions such as carrying sick people on foot from one village to another as there’s no medical facility and transportation in the village, seeing pregnant women dying due to mishandling at delivering babies, and eye-witnessing some patients die just because they were rejected directly or indirectly by hospitals as they were unable to meet with the demand of treatment financially. There were situations where patients passed away before getting to the hospitals as they had to be carried for several days on foot. All these experiences I had been through pierced my heart and in 1999, I decided to look for higher studies in India, hoping that I might be more helpful to my villagers. After making several attempts and struggles, I managed to join a college in Shillong, India in 2000. And in 2002, I passed my higher secondary examination with good grades and was qualified to study medicine in India or abroad.
Chinland Guardian: As a medical student, how would you describe the health situation in Chin State, Burma and what makes you worry most?
Sasa: My dear Chinland Guardian, it is heartbreaking to talk about health situation in Chin State, where treatable infections such as malaria and just diarrhoea still remain one of the greatest threats to life when the rest of the world are trying to treat HIV/AIDS. The situation has been worsening every day since there is no improvement in health care system. I know we cannot protect our people from nuclear attacks but I know we can protect our people from malaria or diarrhoea attacks. And I am so much worried and concerned about unstoppable spreading of HIV/AIDS throughout the country. Sooner or later, our people have to face with this terrible virus without any awareness but I just cannot imagine how we are going to deal with this virus when we are still unable to protect ourselves from simple treatable water-born diseases. By looking at the situations, I have no doubt to say that our people are under the threat of life from any disease or infections. As we all know, since most of our people are living in deep poverty, especially hill regions with very unhygienic conditions, many people will prefer to die than to get treatment because they cannot afford to pay for the treatment. That’s how most of the rural villagers did when they got sick. Frankly speaking, these terrible situations changed my life in a strange way.
Chinland Guardian: As you are well aware of educational systems in Burma, most of the school children have to take an extra private tuition class after studying at school from 9 am to 5 pm. Besides, they still have the so-called home-works given by teachers and some other weekend classes such as computing and Speaking English. Do you think this is right for children? What kind of effects can children get mentally and physically, even for the future?
Sasa: By looking at the education system, which has been ignored for so long and the students’ situation, it is understandable that most of the youths are just hopeless and helpless. When they have no hope and help in life, they could have and develop mental disturbances such as loss of interests, stresses, depressions and psychics, and restlessness. As a result of these, different kind of diseases such as neurological disorder, cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal track disease etc. can even get to them. In addition, physical weakness and laziness is likely to happen afterwards and then physical growth can also be retarded. In order to get rid of all these physical and mental disorders, they could start using drugs, alcohol, smoking and so on. In fact, I have no doubt now to say that these are becoming one of the greatest threats to the future of our people. Since we are in a country where there is no opportunity and job that we can aim for, this hopelessness and helplessness has already discouraged and made many youths to quit going to school and even to university. It is funny when you think about some villagers who keep going to school not for getting educated but for getting exempted from forced labour and portering. It is painful to see a six-year old child who fails to join the school carrying a big bag of rice from valley to mountain after having no choice.
Chinland Guardian: What would be your suggestions to people in the country especially a family as the health system provided by the government is not reliable?
Sasa: A lot of suggestions can be given but it’s going to be really hard to practice. I think our people are greatly in need of preventions rather than treatments. Prevention is critically important especially where there is no proper medical care and absent of health care system. For example, if you can keep your children safe from mosquitoes, then it means you are safe from malaria attacks. We have to make sure that the water is safe because water is the main carrier of disease, even in Chin State. So, it is really important to make sure that the water is kept in a safe place and that it is boiled before use and that the toilets, houseflies and domestic animals are kept under control. There are some other options that each family can also make on their own initiative: having basic sex education, family planning, family care and medicine, getting basic health education, attending short courses of public health, awareness of HIV/AIDS, awareness of infections. In general, it is a bit hard to give suggestions from here because all these things have to go together with actions.
Chinland Guardian: What experience can you share with us from this tour?
Sasa: This second tour provided me many wonderful experiences which further gave me unshakable hope that our people can also stand tall and strong as these people (in the UK) if heading to the right path. To see the freedom that they enjoy, to have a taste of multicultural society; and to experience a bit of life in a democratic and developed country itself have huge effects on me. In term of health and education, I am so impressed to see health care and education system in this country, not only the system but also the doctors, nurses and teacher’s attitudes toward their patients and students. After staying in Armenia for five long years without any Chin friends and now having Chin typical food such as sabuti (corn soup with meat) and meeting with Chin people here in the UK give me such remarkable experience in my life.
Chinland Guardian: Thank you for your time and good luck in your future study.
Sasa: You are always welcome, it is always my pleasure, God bless.