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Four Karen Refugees Suffer Fractured Skull, Broken Back,

Brain Injuries After Attack by Burmese Muslims in Texas




Khin Oo was 12 years old when his family arrived in Boise, Idaho in 2008. A few months later
they were moved to Cactus, Texas, a very small town near Dumas in northern Texas.

They were refugees of Karen ethnicity (in Burmese: Kayin) from Kayin State in Burma (also
known as Myanmar).

One day in September of 2013, Khin Oo, then 17, was in the
apartment watching TV with his younger sister. All of a
sudden his older sister ran up to the apartment, shouting that
some guys were attacking a friend of his. Khin Oo went down
and could see his friend, Nyo Win, getting slammed in the
head with a beer bottle. He recognized the attackers as a
group of Burmese Muslim refugees. His friend, Nyo Win, was
hopelessly outnumbered, and was getting pummeled
mercilessly.

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1he karen are a dlsuncL eLhnlclLy wlLh Lhelr own language, culLure and ldenuLy. 1hey are Lhe
largesL eLhnlclLy of Lhe counLry aer Lhe 8urman. 1hey have been ln a long sLruggle, agalnsL
Lhe 8urmese Army, for Lhe survlval of Lhelr people and Lhelr culLure. MosL karen people are
down-Lo-earLh vlllage people - Lhere are no clues ln kayln SLaLe - and Lhey have no agenda
agalnsL Lhe domlnanL 8urman of 8urma. 1hey are noL clalmlng anyone else's land, and Lhey
pose no LhreaL Lo oLhers around Lhem. ln kayln SLaLe nearly everyone ls karen, Lhere are
generally noL 8urman or oLher eLhnlc vlllages. MosL karen are 8uddhlsL (63-73), and a large
number are Chrlsuan (23). 1helr llves should be peaceful, and harmonlous wlLh Lhe good
land, plenLy of waLer and Lhe abundanL naLure of Lhe area.

Powever, Lhe 8urmese reglme and Lhe Cenerals would noL allow Lhem a perfecLly reasonable
and pracucal auLonomy - wlLh Lhe freedom Lo use and Leach Lhelr own language, culLure, and
Lradluons. So many were kllled or drlven ouL of Lhelr land by Lhe long and bruLal campalgn of
Lhe 8urmese Army Lo subdue Lhem.

lor Lhe mosL parL Lhe auacks and desLrucuon have now sLopped, buL because of Lhe long
hlsLory of acuons agalnsL Lhe karen Lhere ls really only cauuous opumlsm. And now Lhls
famlly and many oLhers, are one of many LransplanLed Lo - ln Lhls case - an obscure Lown ln
1exas, u.S.A.
Khin Oos father, Pa Dah, ran over from nearby and tried to ask
them to stop - but, one of the Muslims smashed a beer bottle into his
skull just above his eye, fracturing his skull.

Khin Oos mother, Ta Ker, ran out from the laundry room of the
apartment and also pleaded to the Muslims to stop the brutal
assault. She was attacked with a 5 foot long metal hoe tool, and was
struck so hard she suffered a broken back.

Then, Khin Oo grabbed a stick on the ground, and ran over to help
his severely beaten friend, mother and father, and was jumped on by
the mob of Muslims and beat savagely.

Khin Oos mother and father, and his friend Nyo Win were taken to
the hospital. Khin Oo declined to go to the hospital. The injuries of Khin Oo, his father, Pa
Dah, and his mother, Ta Ker, were severe and dangerously serious, but they are better now.

However, the injuries of Nyo Win are severe, serious, and very likely permanent. Nyo Win has
brain damage - one side of his body doesnt function correctly. He cannot think well, cannot
talk well, walks around and mumbles incoherently and irrationally.
After receiving asylum in the US, or Australia or elsewhere many of the Karen were shocked
to find themselves in an apartment building living right next to a Karen Muslim family. They
dont participate in or even attend the Karen festivities, events, and ceremonies - yet they are
invited and would be welcomed, sincerely, if they attended. Often they wont eat with the
Karen, because the Karen enjoy pork.

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nobody knows why Lhe bruLal assaulL happened. 1he karen are some of Lhe mosL genLle and
honesL people one can nd. Powever, when lnLervlewed, Lhey Lell of Lhe fear Lhey have of Lhe
Musllms - Lhey don'L undersLand why Lhe Musllms are so conLempLuous Lo Lhem, and seem
Lo even en[oy harasslng and bellullng Lhem. 1he karen Lalked abouL Lhe refugee camps ln
1halland LhaL Lhey came from, aer eelng from Lhelr vlllages ln kayln SLaLe, 8urma. 1hey
descrlbe how Lhere ls a small number of Musllms ln kayln SLaLe LhaL may be called karen
Musllms or 8lack Musllms, whom are noL acLually karen eLhnlclLy, buL largely came durlng Lhe
8rlush colonlal umes, and were sLauoned aL or moved Lo kayln SLaLe. 1hese Musllms come
from Musllm parLs of 8rlush lndla (whlch Lhen, lncluded presenL day aklsLan and
8angladesh).
ln Lhe crowded refugee camps Lhe karen sald Lhey were Lroubled and vlolaLed agaln and
agaln by Lhe Musllms - denlgraung and lnsulung Lhelr 8uddhlsL or Chrlsuan falLhs and
pledglng LhaL Lhe Musllm's lslamlc falLh wlll desLroy Lhe falLhs of oLhers, and LhaL Lhe karen
musL converL now Lo lslam or face deaLh laLer. And, worse Lhan LhaL Lhere were so many
sexual assaulLs, auempLed assaulLs, and rapes agalnsL Lhe karen glrls. ln many, lf noL mosL, of
Lhe refugee camps Lhe karen demanded LhaL Lhe Musllms be moved Lo one corner of Lhe
camp, and LhaL camp auLhorlues keep beuer waLch.
Aer recelvlng asylum ln Lhe uS, AusLralla or elsewhere many of Lhe karen were shocked Lo
nd Lhemselves ln an aparLmenL bulldlng llvlng rlghL nexL Lo a karen Musllm famlly. 1hey don'L
paruclpaLe ln or even auend Lhe karen fesuvlues, evenLs, and ceremonles - yeL Lhey are lnvlLed
and would be welcomed, slncerely, lf Lhey auended. Cen Lhey won'L eaL wlLh Lhe karen,
because Lhe karen en[oy pork.
Everyone there in Cactus, Texas and other towns with Karen refugees knows
what happened a few years ago in Salt Lake City, Utah State, U.S.A. Seven year
old Hser Ner Moo, a young Karen girl, whos family received asylum a few years
previous, was brutally tortured, raped and killed by a Bengali Muslim (Rohingya)
refugee from Burma. The Karen families in that apartment block expressed that
the refugee agency didn't acknowledge the concerns and fears that the Karen
had concerning placing Muslim families in the same apartment block.

The main reporter on this story, Julia Lyon, with a grant from the International Reporting
Project, traveled to Southeast Asia, and the refugee camps in Thailand, where Hser Ner Moo
was born, and where her family and Esar Mets family lived before coming to Utah.
Lyons prize-winning report is available at: http://extras.sltrib.com/thailand/index.html
She finds the same tensions in the refugee camps, with the easy-going honest Karen feeling
harassed and abused by the loud, intolerant, and aggressive Muslims.

The victims in Cactus, Texas need some help and guidance.

The best help can come from Karen people (or other Burmese) in professional positions such
as medical, social services, and law.

There are papers to fill out and return to the office of the Attorney General of Texas,
concerning Crime Victims Compensation.

And, there are medical bills to pay, and for Nyo Win, especially, there may be medical or
rehab options to explore, explain, and assist with.

For these victims, in an isolated very small town even this paperwork is confusing to them.

Please reach out, talk to them, and help them, if you can.

You can call or text Khin Oo at 1-806-966-4334.
They speak Sgaw best, Burmese okay, and English limited.3

by Rick Heizman, San Francisco, April 2014
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