Posted by: jkirkby8712 | April 22, 2011

Tuesday, 19th April, 2011 – another book completed – ‘Little Daughter’

Over the past weekend, I completed reading a rather dramatic, in many ways simple, autobiography, called ‘Little Daughter’ written by Zoya Phan. The title was the name that her father referred to her whilst he was alive. A true story, which left one feeling quite pained again, at the reminder of the constant inhumanity of ‘man’ to his fellow ‘man’, and the words I wrote to a friend from the radio, who spends six months of each year with his Thai wife in Thailand, I guess hint at my concern of the situations surrounding Zoya’s life. Those comments were as follows:-

“I’ve just finished reading a book  written by a refugee from Burma [Zoya Phan  a 28-year-old ethnic Karen refugee from Burma, who as a 14 year old,  was forced to flee her country after her village was attacked by the Burmese Army], and who subsequently spent some ‘tortuous’ years in a couple of the refugee camps just inside the Thai border with Burma, before she was eventually able to ‘escape’ to the West, where today, she continues to campaign for the rights of her people.  With the ongoing brutal attitude of the Burmese regime, those oppressed classes in Burma [the Karens in particular], are still suffering the same fate, and in view of the many problems we still face here in Australia in respect to refugees,  I was wondering what the general attitude of the Thai people is towards the refugee problem coming from Burma, and what the King thinks or does about it?   Just curious guys  – it was a very confronting and disturbing book – and one has to wonder sometimes at the value of organisations such as the United Nations [or the USA/Britain, etc] who are so ready to jump into places like Libya to ‘protect’ the citizens, while the regime in Burma has been permitted to run amok against it’s own people for decades, even up to 2011.   Incidentally, some of those people here in Australia, who are always so ready to attack refugees as ‘free loaders’, ‘illegal immigrants, etc’ would do well to read a book like Zoya’s, and perhaps get a better understanding of some of the conditions that the majority of refugees have to live under that drives them to the stage of taking desperate measures [like using people smugglers] to simply escape those conditions –  the book –  ‘Little Daughter, the Autobiography of Zoya Phan’   [as you can gather, I’m a bit of an advocate for the cause of refugees, and have actually taken part in work to assist some of these people, in recent years, but I don’t really apologise for that]”

In brief terms, that probably sums up my feelings arising from the book.  To give a clearer idea of it’s subject matter,  I copy from the book promo itself.

“Zoya Phan is a 28-year-old ethnic Karen refugee from Burma. As a teenager she was forced to flee her country after her village was attacked by the Burmese Army. She now lives in London and works for the human rights organization Burma Campaign UK.   She was born in the remote jungles of Burma, to the Karen ethnic group. For decades the Karen have been under attack from Burma’s military junta; Zoya’s mother was a guerrilla soldier, her father a freedom activist. She lived in a bamboo hut on stilts by the Moei River; she hunted for edible fungi with her much-loved adopted brother, Say Say. Many Karen are Christian or Buddhist, but Zoya’s parents were animist, venerating the spirits of forest, river and moon. Her early years were blissfully removed from the war. At the age of fourteen, however, Zoya’s childhood was shattered as the Burmese army attacked. With their house in flames, Zoya and her family fled. So began two terrible years of running from guns, as Zoya joined thousands of refugees hiding in the jungle. Her family scattered, Zoya sought sanctuary across the border in a Thai refugee camp. Conditions in the camp were difficult, and Zoya now had to care for her ailing mother.

Zoya, a gifted pupil, was eventually able to escape, first to Bangkok and then, with her enemies still pursuing her, in 2004 she fled to the UK and claimed asylum. The following year, at a ‘free Burma’ march, she was plucked from the crowd to appear on the BBC, the first of countless interviews with the world’s media. She became the face of a nation enslaved, rubbing shoulders with presidents and film stars. By turns uplifting, tragic and entirely gripping Little Daughter  is the extraordinary true story of the girl from the jungle who became an icon of a suffering land.” 

While Zoya was in London, now a ‘free citizen’, her much loved father, who had long being on a Burmese ‘hit list’ was finally assassinated in front of his home, and that tragedy drove Zoya even further into her campaigns to free her people from oppression, a campaign which sadly continues to this day. Arising from that is The Phan Foundation, which was founded by Zoya Phan, his sister Bwa Bwa and her brothers Say Say and Slone. It is dedicated to the memory of their parents, and the lifetime of sacrifice they devoted, Padoh Mahn Sha [who was the General Secretary of the Karen National Union, at the time of his murder]  and Nant Kyin Shwe. The Foundation aims to fight poverty and provide education for Karen people from Burma, and it helps people in Burma and refugees, who continue to be forced to free their homes in the Thai border regions of Burma, and to achieve this, has four main objectives –  to alleviate poverty, to provide education, to promote human rights, and to protect Karen culture.  Much of that culture has being systematically destroyed as part of the Burmese regime’s policy of the ethnic cleansing of the Karen people. Visit  for more information, and ways of providing support.


Meanwhile, as it was Tuesday night, my program of Show music took place on the radio  – with Easter approaching, I decided to highlight many of the wonderful tracks from the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. For myself, the highlight of that was the performance of ‘Gethsemane’ from the show, which reminds me always of that dramatic scene from Mel Gibson’s movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’, where Christ is in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before his arrest, and he is pleading with God to ‘relieve Him from this yoke of destiny’ that has been placed upon Him.  I wish to share those lyrics with my readers:-

I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don’t want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me,
I have changed I’m not as sure
As when we started
Then I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired
Listen surely I’ve exceeded
Tried for three years
Seems like thirty
Could you ask as much
From any other man?

But if I die
See the saga through
And do the things you ask of me
Let them hate me, hit me, hurt me
Nail me to their tree
I’d want to know
I’d want to know my God
I’d want to know
I’d want to know my God
I’d want to see
I’d want to see my God
I’d want to see
I’d want to see my God
Why I should die
Would I be more noticed
Than I ever was before?
Would the things I’ve said and done
Matter any more?
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord
I’d have to see
I’d have to see my Lord
I’d have to see
I’d have to see my Lord

If I die what will be my reward?
If I die what will be my reward?
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord
I’d have to know
I’d have to know my Lord

Why, why should I die?
Oh, why should I die?
Can you show me now
That I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little
Of your omnipresent brain
Show me there’s a reason
For your wanting me to die
You’re far too keen on where and how
But not so hot on why
Alright I’ll die!
Just watch me die!
See how, see how I die!
Oh, just watch me die!

Then I was inspired
Now I’m sad and tired
After all I’ve tried for three years
Seems like ninety
Why then am I scared
To finish what I started
What you started
I didn’t start it
God thy will is hard
But you hold every card
I will drink your cup of poison
Nail me to your cross and break me
Bleed me, beat me
Kill me, take me now
Before I change my mind

[from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ – Gethsemane]


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