News & Policies >
For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
June 23, 2008
Remarks by Ms. Hoffman in Honor of World Refugee Day
June 20, 2008
MS. HOFFMAN: Good morning, everyone. This morning I want to talk about why I become a refugee, and also my experience settling in U.S.
Both of my parents lived in Burma. The Burmese military does not like our Karen people or any other minority ethnic groups in Burma, so they want to ethnically cleanse the country.
The Burmese soldiers come to our Karen village to torture, rape and kill. They use our villagers as forced labor for carrying weapons, building roads and even oil lines. Both of my parents forced to be a porter of the Burmese soldiers, who beat my father until he almost died. Thankfully, he was able to escape.
After the Burmese soldiers stole everything they want from our village, they burned them down to the ground. My village was also burned, so my parents fled to Thailand and lived in refugee camp.
I was born in refugee camp and lived there for my whole live. Our camp was supported by U.N.; they gave us food and place to live. But we still had to scare of the Burmese soldiers, because our camp was so near to the border. Sometimes, at nighttime, they will attack our camp, shooting peoples and burning house. There is many time I still remember having to run and hide in cave and watch my house was burned down to the ground. One time, as a young girl, I was almost nearly killed by a mortar that fired in our camp, but God protected me.
Life in camp was very poor. There is no job, not enough food, and many died of disease every years. We were surrounded by a barbed-wife fence and not allowed to leave. It was just like a jail. If we tried to leave, the Thai soldier will arrest us and treat us badly. Also, the Thai soldiers will occasionally rape young girl in camps. We always lived in camp in fears, but what could we do? If we tried to live in Thailand, the Thai will arrest us because we are not a Thai citizen. And if we go back to Burma, the Burmese military will arrest us and kill us because we are Karen.
In December 2006, the United States of America opened its arms and gave our Karen people opportunity to escape and live in this country. I applied to come to America, but to be accepted I have to do two interview and medical check. Many peoples failed the medical check and have to stay in camp. Fortunately I passed, so I'm able to come to America. After six months I received wonderful news that I could come to America, and I arrived in United States on June 19, 2007. It's a true miracle of God. A month later they brought my family to United States as well.
The U.S. government helped me with medicals and food bills for almost one years. I am very grateful to President Bush and the people of America to allow me to stay in this wonderful country.
A few months after my arrival, it was difficult to find a job. But several months later, I found one. It was very badly treating, so I have to quit. Now I have a wonderful job at Starbucks, so I am able to provide my own basic needs.
I love America. I can go anywhere in United States and not worry about being checkpoints or being arrested. I'm so thrilled and so excited, I can't wait to become a citizen of this wonderful country.
I want to be a part of a country that give people rights and freedom. Today, on behalf of the Karen people, I want to thank President Bush, the U.N., the International Rescue Committee, and the people of America for all your help in give me freedom. Most importantly, I want to thank God for all his grace.
Please don't forget my people in Burma who are still suffering. Thank you. (Applause.)