All in all, the situation for ethnic minorities in Burma is not good. You hear the stories of all the bad things that happen--the forced displacement of villages, the conscription of ethnic minority youth as coolies for the Burmese army, the general lack of any hope for economic prosperity--yet the clearest indicator that things are not good is that even with all of the problems ethnic minorities face in Thailand, hundreds of people still sneak across the Burmese border every day.
Most of us will never know the desperation one must have to flee to another country, yet one must wonder if, amidst desire to flee Burma, there is any realization all of that they are leaving behind. For instance, if you ask a typical Burmese or Shan person on the street where you can find an Akha-run business, they will be able to answer you because 1) they actually know which tribe is called what
, and 2) it isn't unheardof for an Akha to run a business.
Indeed, insofar as there are opportunities at all in Shan State, Burma, they seem to be open to all. I have met a number of Akha college graduates in Kengtung--what do you do with a college degree in rural Burma?--and encountered at this Shan school
two Akha teachers. I would never expect to see an Akha teacher at an all-Thai school in Thailand.