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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Refugees » Burma



Burma is located in souteastern asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal; between Bangladesh and Thailand and neighboring India, China, and Laos.  Burma is one of the poorest countries in Asia.

The current government in Burma is a military dictatorship.  Most refugees from Burma have fled the country, not because of civil war, but because of extreme military/governmental oppression. Refugees from Burma have been living in opposition to the ruling government for twenty years, many being forced into labor camps and others experiencing direct loss and/or destruction of property, rape, and killing of family members.

Burmese refugees began arriving in Vermont in 2009 and now number almost 200.  Most of these refugees came to Vermont through a refugee camp in Thailand called Tham Hin Camp.  Some also arrived through Malaysia.

There are eight main ethnic groups in Burma with approximately 130 ethnic subgroups.  These groups are primarily determined according to region rather than linguistic or ethnic affiliation. The Vermont settled refugees from Burma are predominantly ethnic Karen and Muslim.  As is true in Burma, the different Burmese ethnic groups in Vermont tend to lead very separate lives, though will come together for specific recreational activities such as soccer or volleyball.

Though trust is beginning to develp between Burmese refugees and their primary care doctors,  mental illness is viewed as “karma” by Burmese and often little action is taken to address these types of problems.  Depression and anxiety are commonly experienced by Burmese refugees.

Burma: Cultural Considerations in Working with Burmese Refugees