The Shans are an ethnic minority tribe living in the mountains in northern Myanmar. There are at least 500,000 people displaced in the Shan State, often for military purposes or through the seizure and exploitation of their resources.
Since 1996, over 220,000 displaced people from Southern Shan State have fled to Thailand. On average, 8,000 to 15,000 new refugees arrive in Thailand each year.
Refugees from the Shan State are not recognised as refugees or afforded protection by the Thai government or United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and are considered illegal immigrants.
In 2005, JRS Singapore started a 3-year collaboration with the parish of the Church of Christ the King to support the Shan project. With the assistance of the church, there have been significant improvements to the quality of life for the refugees, in terms of basic educational and medical needs, and income-generating activities.
In November 2008, JRS Singapore started another 3-year collaboration with the Church of the Risen Christ. Four members from the church’s Parish Mission Ministry made a 5-day trip to the Shan refugee camp, schools and orphanages. Besides visiting and accompanying the refugees on this trip, the group was also there to identify areas in which they could help.
On 26 and 27 September 2009, the Parish Mission Ministry and JRS organised an awareness and fund-raising project called ‘Mission Possible’. They set up an exhibition and a booth selling handicrafts made by the refugees and landmine victims. There was also a jumble sale by the RC parishioners. A short presentation on the plight of the Shan refugees was screened in church. The money raised over the weekend was eventually channeled to support the various projects at the Shan refugee camps. These projects include teacher stipends, school fees, income generation such as the production of handicrafts, and a new road for the orphanage.