Asia Pacific: JRS news briefs from the region

30 April 2012

Related: JRS Asia Pacific
Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi wins by-election

Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 43 seats in Burma’s April 1 by-elections. She and the NLD will be the main opposition force in a national parliament dominated by the military and its political allies. She joins the parliament April 23 after living 15 of the past 22 years locked up by the former junta. Suu Kyi was released in late 2010 just days after a controversial election won by the military.

JRS Australia Youth Awards winners ‘brilliant’

The third annual JRS Youth Award attracted a diversity of entries ranging from the clever and practical to the technically brilliant, with the Director of JRS, Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ, describing the winning entries as “haunting” and “brilliant.” The winners made an interactive game called The Road for a Refugee. “It drew the viewer into a game where we have to make the choices and experience the consequences ourselves,” said Fr Mowe. Another entry,Somali Refugees, was an outstanding entry that was well-deserving of first place, according to Mowe. “It did not look at refugees from a distance, or from the perspective of an outsider. Rather it gave the refugees a voice, and what a voice: eloquent, heart-felt, painting a world that spoke not just of the horrors that refugees flee, but also of the beauty of what they leave behind.” Somali Refugees has already been shown at two major events and received good reviews.

Being globally strategic

After extensive consultation throughout last year, JRS published its Strategic Framework for 2012-2015, outlining broad goals, values, strategies and expected outcomes for the next four years. The 24-page booklet seeks to provide an inspirational framework and set overarching strategies for all 10 JRS regions to meet the challenges of working with refugees on the edges of humanity. The goals adapt core beliefs and make them relevant to the challenges of today: compassion on the edge of humanity, faith and justice, hope and education, and unity in action. Read the document in its entirety at

Spreading compassion through Australia

JRS teamed up with Caritas Australia last month to promote Project Compassion, the annual fundraising and community engagement appeal. The project’s simple, yet insightful message: “If you want Peace, work for Justice” – Pope Paul VI, was shared with people across Australia.

Fire threatens refugee camp

A forest fire broke out in a small section of Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp along the Thai/Burma border April 6. The section leader immediately alerted camp residents via loud speaker as refugees mobilised to extinguish the fire. Strong winds stoked fears the fire would spread rapidly from house to house, but prompt action to remove the roofs prevented disaster. Luckily, a heavy downpour helped extinguish the fire so no homes were damaged and no one was hurt. The Permanent Secretary of Mae Hong Son visited the scene and praised the camps section leader for their efforts to stamp out the fire, noting the disaster response plan was well implemented ensuring the safety of life and property.

Learning the law of statelessness

JRS Cambodia in April partnered with the Statelessness Programme of the University of Tilburg Law School to deliver a training for civil society on statelessness. The issue is of increasing concern internationally, regionally and within Cambodia. The training introduced the concept and international law of statelessness, and explored how statelessness can be prevented. Case studies from the region and internationally showed the consequences of statelessness and possible ways to resolve it.

JRS makes more effort to connect with you

A JRS workshop in February produced a new two-year communication plan to promote attention on refugee issues. Field staff met in Rome for a week of workshops and discussions on how to best inform, educate and motivate readers like you to action on issues facing forcibly displaced people. Seminars throughout the week spanned from writing for the web, using tools like Facebook and Twitter, and fundraising. Both social networking and multimedia were presented as tools to share the voices of refugees and forcibly displaced people, and quickly inform the public in the event of a crisis or new positive development.

UNHCR exits Timor Leste

During a gathering at the presidential palace to mark the closure of UNHCR’s Dili office in January, Jose Ramos-Horta thanked the UN refugee agency for helping see his young country through the humanitarian crises of its early years. UNHCR opened its office in 1999 and Timor Leste gained independence in 2002.