Civil war has wracked the country of Myanmar for generations. The country, controlled by a military dictatorship, has led brutal campaigns against many of the native ethnic minorities including the Karen (pronouced Ka - Ren) people.

Karen people are the third largest ethnic minority in Burma (Myanmar) with a population of close to 10 million. War broke out shortly after Burma became an independent country. The Burmese military went to the Karen villages and destroyed the houses and buildings, looted belongings, confiscated lands, and burned the crops to the ground.  Hundreds of thousands of Karen fled their villages. Many found shelter in the mountainous areas of the Thailand-Myanmar border. Many of those who stayed in the village were massacred.  More than 200,000 Karen fled across the board into refugee camps in Thailand through the 1980s and into the present day.  

Many waited for years if not decades before having an opportunity to apply for resettlement to another country.  Karen people can be found in Scandinavian countries (Norway, Demark, Finland, and Sweden), Australia, New Zealand, and United States.

Resettlement to the US reached its highest levels from 2000 to 2010. Now Karen families live in Minnesota, Texas, and California, and there are about 1,500 individuals who live in Akron, Cleveland, and Lakewood Ohio. 


Currently, Khoon Thomas Kate is a program coordinator of scholarship and Adult Tutoring (Karen Community) at the Refugee Response.Mr. Kate was a resettled refugee from Burma, and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for about 12 years.Mr. Kate speaks Karen, Karenni, Thai, Burmese and English languages fluently, and provides translation and interpretation support for families resettled to Cleveland.

Prior to working with The Refugee Response, Mr. Kate was an English Teacher and Extracurricular Program Coordinator in the Karenni Refugee Camp where he and his family lived in Thailand.  He had also worked at The Burma Project Education Office, Karenni State Post High School and in other organizations throughout Thailand whereby he provided interpretation of US Homeland Security Department during conducting interview, instructor, and athletic director or served as a student counselor. 

Mr. Kate received a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 2008 from Rangsit University in Bankok, Thailand. 


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