Bjarne has been assisting “DanChurchAid” in the north-western city of Mae Sot since February this year. “DanChurchAid” and Bjarne Ussing are helping Burmese refugees living in several camps along the border to Burma.
Mae Sot is not the most famous place in Thailand. A dusty, sleepy town on the border to Burma with a small backpacker-scene existing mainly because people come here to start their trekking-tours to the mountainous border region.
“It’s a great place. There are not many sights here but Mae Sot is a melting pot of lots of cultures and peoples”, says Bjarne.
“Thousands of Burmese of different tribes live here and have done so long before the conflict in Burma and more thousands are crossing the border everyday for trading”
“Others are refugees – and then all the NGOs working in the area. It’s a very colourful place and at the same time very easy going”, tells Bjarne after revealing that he is turning 45 years on this actual day.
Bjarne has a long history with aid- work and a long history with “DanChurchAid” in particular. Born in France and having lived there for his first nine years, he moved with his family to Copenhagen. As grown up he later became a journalist.
Since Bjarne has at different times been associated with “DanChurchAid”. That lead him to Congo for a year, where he was involved in the work with clearing of landmines and helping with information regarding landmines.
Now Bjarne Ussing is an observer for”DanChurchAid,” the same organization, who yearly contribute with 4 million D.kr. to TBBC (Thailand Burma Border Consortium).
TBBCs responsibility is to ensure that aid actually gets to the refugee camps in an effective way.
It is Bjarne Ussings job with TBBC to make sure that the help is being carried out.
Bjarnes way to Mae Sot
It’s not a big surprise that Bjarne has ended up in Thailand now. Through his work as sometimes employed and sometimes volunteer for “DanChurchAid”, Burma Support Group Denmark and his involvement with Burmese exile groups in Denmark he has build up considerable knowledge about the situation in Burma.
“It’s a long lasting conflict with mainly the Karen people being victims. The Karen people have worked for democracy for the last 50 years or more which has resulted in an armed conflict with more than now 155,000 refugees on the Thailand side of the border. The numbers do not seem to recline which means all possible help is needed from the outside world.” Bjarne explains.
Bjarne, who is still single, has no plans of leaving Thailand as long as he is needed here. He is currently working on a book on his time in Congo.
He resides like most Thai people in Mae Sot in a wooden house which he rents. As there are no other Danes of his knowledge residing in Mae Sot there will be no Danish flags or pastry on his birthday. But Bjarne doesn’t seem to bother.
“I can’t say that I miss the Danish traditions really. But after living in Congo and Thailand I have learnt to more to appreciate Denmark and the basic values we have which you can’t take for granted everywhere – for an example in Burma or Congo. It has made me a bit more patriotic but don’t compare it to nationalism which is a lot different.”