The National League for Democracy (NLD), Burma’s main opposition party, held a ceremony in the border town of Myawaddy on Sunday to donate money to schools for the children of Burmese migrant workers living in neighboring Thailand.
The NLD’s Education Network, which held a fundraiser in Rangoon last month, donated more than 12 million kyat (US $15,000) to support eight schools in the Mae Sot area of Thailand’s Tak Province, where there are a total of 81 schools for Burmese migrant children.
According to NGO sources familiar with the situation of Burmese children living in Thailand, the schools provide education for around 15,000 students, while another 25,000 do not attend school at all.
The leader of the Education Network, NLD MP Phyo Min Thein, said at a press conference on Sunday that the party wants to improve not only the education of children inside Burma, but also that of those forced to live outside.
“We came here to support the migrant teachers who are providing education to the children of migrant workers,” said Phyo Min Thein.
Naing Naing Htun, the general secretary of the Burmese Migrant Teachers’ Association, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the association was delighted to receive recognition from the NLD and is happy that the party is aware of the education needs of migrant children living in difficult circumstances.
“We value their acknowledgment of our migrant education,” said Naing Naing Htun. “We thank the NLD not only for their donation, but also for caring about the improvement of education for migrant children.”
Sunday’s donation ceremony came a day after Phyo Min Thein and other leading members of the NLD Education Network, as well as Dr Thein Lwin of the NLD’s Education Committee, crossed the border to Mae Sot to visit the Mae Tao clinic, run by Dr Cynthia Maung.
Phyo Min Thein said during the visit to the clinic that the purpose of the trip was to show the international community that there is still a need for international support for projects based along the border.
“As Burma is moving toward change, the donors want to move into the country,” he said. “So we want them to know that those living on the border are also facing great difficulties.”
Last month, the NLD raised more than 500 million kyat ($580,000) at a two-day fundraising event to mark the second anniversary of the party’s Education Network. The event caused some controversy when it was revealed cronies of Burma’s former ruling generals had donated around 200,000 kyat of the total.
Responding to criticism of the NLD’s acceptance of donations from shady businessmen—some of whom are on sanctions lists imposed by Western countries—NLD Chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi said that she was happy to accept money from anyone, as long as it was for the good of Burmese society.
The NLD Education Network and the Burmese Migrant Teachers’ Association said they will collaborate in the future to develop a curriculum for migrant children who complete high-school level education in the migrant schools, said Naing Naing Htun.