New Gresham citizens happy to live in the United States
A Burmese movie plays on the television in a modest East Multnomah County apartment. Among the household decorations are a laminated picture of the American flag and a large map of the United States.
The apartment is home to three of the Gresham area's newest citizens — Niang Suan Cing, who was sworn in on Tuesday, June 11; her "auntie" Vung Man Cin, sworn in Thursday, June 20, World Refugee Day; and Cing's husband, Thang Kaw Mang, who took the oath Wednesday, April 10.
The new citizens are Zomi people from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The Christian Zomi tell of brutal oppression as part of a religious and ethnic minority in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Many Zomi ultimately escape Myanmar for lives elsewhere.
"We are very happy in United States," Mang said.
The trio has been in America since 2013.
"Burma is a very hard country. We are very, very poor. The military government makes it hard for the Zomi people. They press down on us," Mang said.
Mang was a teacher in Myanmar but fled the country to New Delhi and lived there as a refugee for seven years. He met his wife there.
"In New Delhi, we make wedding ceremony," he said.
They came to the U.S. and decided on the Gresham area because they had relatives here.
The trio has settled in to the local Zomi community.
"We have many friends here," he said.
Mang was president of a Zomi community group in Portland, Zomi Innkuan Portland Oregon, for two years. The group, with more than 300 members, offers friendship, ties to their homeland and social events and ethnic festivals and celebrations to attend.
Christian Zomi report they have been violently oppressed by Myanmar's military because they were both an ethnic and religious minority in the majority Buddhist country. Other Gresham Zomi describe the army raiding Zomi villages and taking whatever they wanted, beating Zomi people and forcing them into dangerous and debilitating jobs. The savage treatment of another Myanmar minority, Muslim Rohingya has been extensively reported worldwide.
The Zomi, or Zo people, live in the Northwest area of Myanmar. The area where the Zomi live is called Chin. There are many subgroups of the Zomi and multiple dialects are spoken. The Zomi can also be found in Northeast India and Bangladesh.
Mang said it was important for the three to get citizenship. They can now travel to Canada to visit Cing's sister. And they want to vote in their adopted country.
"To vote, it is a big opportunity for us," he said.
But most important, Mang said they feel free and not persecuted.
"We can stay easily and happily, without difficulty. We are not inferior now," he said.
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