"Nine Thousand Nights" brings to life experiences of refugees from Burma

In remote "bamboo cities" ringed by deep forests and high mountains on the western edge of Thailand, refugees from Burma have lived a life apart for more than 25 years, or "Nine Thousand Nights." Now they and "outsiders" who have known them share their personal memories of harsh, inspiring, and extraordinary times on the Thailand-Burma border in "Nine Thousand Nights: Refugees from Burma, A Peoples' Scrapbook."

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In remote "bamboo cities" ringed by deep forests and high mountains, on the western edge of Thailand, refugees from Burma have lived a life apart for more than 25 years, or "Nine Thousand Nights."  Now they and "outsiders" who have known them share their personal memories of harsh, inspiring and extraordinary times on the 1,200-mile Thailand-Burma border in Nine Thousand Nights: Refugees from Burma, A Peoples’ Scrapbook.

Among the hundreds of contributors are refugees from Burma who have resettled to the United States and who now are members of communities across the country.

A project of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), this extraordinary 200-page volume brings together hundreds of stories, anecdotes, poems, art and photographs to paint a vivid mosaic of the life and times of a place and its people, who have long been waiting for justice, peace and solutions to their plight.

TBBC member agencies in various countries are distributing the book.  In the U.S., Nine Thousand Nights (9" x 10.75" paperback; ISBN 978-616-90557-0-9) is available from Church World Service, a TBBC founding member and continuing supporter. Cost is $30, which includes shipping and handling.

CWS Immigration and Refugee Program Director Erol Kekić said the 150,000-member refugee community along the Thailand-Burma border is unlike any anywhere else in the world.  "The camps aren’t like those where the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations provide all services.  Rather, they embody the community-based nature of the refugees’ response to their own situation.  The refugees have organized themselves to a high degree to help their own people.  The camps are staffed by refugee teachers, medics, security guards."

In Nine Thousand Nights, refugees tell of the pain and trauma of fleeing from bullets, torture and forced labor at the hands of the Burmese army; of their determination to survive and build new lives in exile; and of their frustration with the restrictions of life as "temporary guests" in another country.

TBBC members and donors, visitors, nongovernmental workers, diplomats, Thai government officials, photographers, journalists, and others who have been involved in the work and life on the border throughout the years recall their encounters with the peoples, histories, and cultural and historical complexities of the refugees.  They tell of meeting women and men in the border camps whose courage, humor and resilience left a deep impression and inspired them to want to know more, or to help.

Read a review of Nine Thousand Nights by David Scott Mathieson, senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch.

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