Paw Lu Lu – Burma

Linked with Nang Charm Tong, with Khun Htun, with Naw Zipporrah Sein, and with Cynthia Maung.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “War has created many problems. It brings immorality and poverty. The war must end and everybody should live in dignity”.

Paw Lu Lu - Burma rogné.jpg

Paw Lu Lu – Burma

She works for Baan Plod-Phai (no english text on Google).

Paw Lu Lu was born in 1948 in Tongu, Burma. Although she only finished primary school, a friend trained her as a nurse when she went to live in Karen state. She fled to the Thai border when the repression in Burma worsened and has since been taking care of patients in the Sangklaburi district of Kanchanaburi province.

She runs the Baan Plod-Phai (Safe-House) founded by the National Women’s Council and supported by The Church of Christ and NGOs that work on the Thai-Myanmar border.Paw Lu Lu, 57, is a Karen who migrated from her home in Burma to live on the Thai border after the 1988 student uprising. She lived with her older brother in Sangklaburi district for one year then moved on to the refugee center in the Mae-Sot district, Tak province, where she still works.

Life in Myanmar was difficult; there were no jobs, no money. At the time, when the military junta came up to the ethnic minority villages, they burned everything down. No one could live and the people had to flee to Thailand,” she recalls. She moved to many refugee centers around the Mae-Sot border and worked as a caregiver, a skill she learned from a nurse in Karen state.

She stayed in Mae-Sot until she gave birth to her second daughter. When the military junta crossed the border into Thailand and burned down her village, Paw Lu Lu returned to Sangklaburi. It was a difficult walk from Mae-Sot to Sangklaburi. They walked through the jungle day and night. Her father and mother were both paralyzed and Paw Lu Lu and her husband had to carry them. And their children were still young and needed care.

She settled in the small village of Baan Huay-Ma-Lai in Sangklaburi district where she opened a grocery that also sold medicines. With her knowledge of nursing, the villagers came to her for medical treatment. One day, the National Women’s Council had a meeting in Sangklaburi where they saw sick people who had been freed from prisons without access to health care. With Paw Lu Lu’s well-known abilities, the National Women’s Council asked to take on the responsibility of caring for such patients in a Safe House.

The Safe House was established on November 1, 1993 with nothing, not even pots and pans, and Paw Lu Lu, as its housekeeper, had to bring equipment from her own house until some NGOs lent a hand. Today, the Safe house has more staff and more patients. “At first, it only took care of patients who were freed from jail, but later we had all kinds of patients such as the mentally ill, HIV/Aids patients. Somehow, police and villagers take them to us and we have to accept.

”Baan Huay-Ma-Lai has a diversity of minority groups — Mon, Akha and ethnic Chinese — but mostly it is the Karen who have migrated there from Burma. Being on the border, many people come across quite often, especially women who escape from the war to become sex workers. The women take amphetamines when they work and end up with mental illness, and/or HIV/Aids.

Initially, the Safe House was not acceptable to the village because they thought it was a place for the sick, especially HIV/Aids victims. They told the police to close down the house or not to allow the water from the Safe House to flow into the rest of the village. Paw Lu Lu found a solution to the problem. “We asked the doctor at the Christian Hospital (in Baan Huay-Ma-Lai) to inform the villagers that if the patient needs intensive care, we do not let him stay in the Safe House, but send him to the hospital. The villagers understood.”

Many patients who have recovered but have no place to go, continue living in the Safe House. Some of them suffer depression and just want to die but Paw Lu Lu tries to help by finding jobs for them. She asked villagers who are experts in weaving to teach the skill to her patients and help them sell their products. “Someone who was paralyzed due to an accident could only think that dying was better than being alive. We encouraged him to learn to weave. Right now, nobody wants to die.”Besides weaving, the Safe House teaches patients to plant crops without chemicals, and farming so they can feed themselves.

All the activities in the Safe House are meant to create a home-like family atmosphere. Now that the Safe House is stable, Paw Lu Lu has other projects, such as taking care of the elderly. She also initiated a project for the education of children in remote areas. She now has three schools, one in the village next to the border and two in a small village, where the Karen refugees have settled. Being refugees, they have no right to occupy the land and their children have no right to study in state schools in Thailand.

Says Paw Lu Lu, “I want the children to study. I think about myself before…we were very poor. My children could not even go to school. I need to help the other get their chance. When these children grow up, they will have knowledge, they will become intellectuals in their mind and body. Good habits also will be useful in our society. ”Today, the Safe House has enough staff to carry on with the work. But Paw Lu Lu still carries on as usual as head of the Safe House, to care for the patients, to solve problems and to create new projects. Good health for the patients, children getting an education – these are her yardsticks for success, the reward for her tireless efforts.

The Safe House is supported by NGOs working on the Thai-Myanmar border. Organizations from Australia provide financial support for the Safe House’s weaving project and educational program. (Read all on 1000peacewomen).


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