Friday, 13 December 2019

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The children of the Shan Army-South

(Mizzima) - The last day of five-day football competition at the headquarters of the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) entertained a larger number of Shan children than normal this year.

shan-headquarters-camp1One of the roles of the SSA-S is to nurture and educate the children of the Shan community and other ethnic groups in the area.

Currently, there are more than 800 children studying at Loi Tai Leng, the name of the headquarters. The children include Shan, Palaung and Pa-O, and other ethnic groups. Many are orphans–– victims of the fighting, past and present.

Along the Shan-Thai border, the SSA-S has five main bases where Shan and others take shelter. The bases are Loi Kaw Wan (near Tachilek), Loi Sam Sip (near Fang), Loi Lam (near Wieng Heng, Chiang Mai) and Loi Tai Leng and Kong Moon Mong (opposite Mae Hong Son).

Each area has schools for children where they also learn Shan, Thai, English and Burmese. Education is seen as a way to a better way of life Students who are above the primary school level take examinations at Loi Tai Leng, which offers grades 1 through 9. Students who finish school are encouraged to continue their education in Chiang Mai. After that, some may come back to work as teachers or become medical staff in various areas.

shan-headquarters-camp2Asked about child soldiers, a teacher said, “Some students do not want to study, and they do want to become fighters. However, we don’t send children under 18 years old into the military. We have a rule, children must study and stay in school until they are 18 years old.

‘After 18 years old, they are free to choose: they may become soldiers or teachers, work in logistics or administration or work in other areas’.

The football matches are a good way to build Shan spirit among children, say teachers and organizers of the football matches.
Children from across Thailand and Burma cheered the teams and played football themselves on a dusty playground under the scorching sun.

One of the standouts was Sai Aung Leng, 9, who scored eight goals, earning the top scorer slot.

shan-headquarters-camp3‘I want to be a Shan “Ronaldo”’, he said, ‘because he is tricky and has fast feet.

‘We have a TV at school where we can watch sports news. I remember him and like him a lot’, he said.

According to Kru Tem Kur, a referee, the children’s matches are ‘a good opportunity for kids from different places to play together and make friends. Also, they feel like they are living in the same Shan community.’

The SSA-S, under the leadership of ‘Lieutenant General’ Yawd Serk, is the only Shan armed group that is fighting the Burmese regime.


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