For descendents of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) soldiers in Myanmar and Thailand who have entered Taiwan on false passports, going home for the Lunar New Year isn’t an option.
Following the defeat of the KMT in the Chinese Civil War 60 years ago, thousands of KMT soldiers who had crossed the border to Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar) were isolated there, eventually becoming known as the “Orphan Army.”
Their descendants in Thailand and Myanmar — many stateless even today — often celebrate both the Lunar New Year and the Thai New Year, also known as Songkran.
PHOTO: LI YING, TAIPEI TIMES
Many come to Taiwan to study, and for those without legal travel documents, going home to spend the holidays with their families is too risky.
Li Mei-ping (李美萍), who has been studying at the National Taipei University of Education for eight years, entered Taiwan on a false passport from Myanmar and is concerned about returning to that country. She has prolonged her studies in Taiwan because of her concerns.
Each winter vacation, Li works part time in a restaurant, when she can earn double wages, and then remits the money to Myanmar to support her family. If time allows, she visits her Taiwanese relatives in Chungli (中壢), Taoyuan County, to spend the Lunar New Year with them.
Li grew up in an ethnic Chinese area of northern Myanmar. On Lunar New Year’s Eve, families prepare elaborate meals and children gather in groups at midnight to visit the houses in the neighborhood and sing auspicious songs.
At the end of each song, the children ask for red envelopes. The atmosphere is very similar to Halloween, Li said.
On the morning of the first day of the Lunar New Year, everybody stays home to avoid bad luck. On that day it is traditional to eat vegetarian food, and the next day to eat noodles, symbolizing longevity, she said.
Yang Wen-chie (楊文傑), who was born in Kachin State in northern Myanmar, has been in Taiwan for eight years and recently graduated from National Chengchi University.
Yang said the Lunar New Year was always a trying time for him during his studies.
The dormitories emptied out as most students returned home to celebrate and the restaurants near the university all closed. Yang and his classmates from Myanmar usually spent the holiday together in the dorm feeling depressed and eating instant noodles, he said.
When asked what they missed most about celebrating the Lunar New Year at home, Yang and Li both named the spicy sausage and papaya chicken that are holiday favorites.
Yang said the Thai-Myanmar Region Chinese Offspring Refugee Service Association held functions every Lunar New Year for the descendents of Chinese in Thailand and Myanmar who live in Taiwan. Dishes such as Thai shrimp pancakes and Burmese papaya salad add a bit of holiday cheer at a time when many long for home and their families.
From April 13 to April 15, ethnic Chinese communities in Thailand and Myanmar also take part in Songkran, throwing water at passersby to symbolize washing away the previous year’s bad luck.
The festival also involves covering oneself and others in scented powder and chalk: The whiter one makes oneself, the luckier they will be in the New Year, according to tradition, Li and Yang said.
Those who have water thrown on them cannot get angry but must thank the person who throws the water.
During Songkran, people have to get up early to bathe and Buddhist temples clean their statues to signify renewal in the New Year.
LIABILITIES MULLED: New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi said Taipei would find out if the firm was legally registered, the guide was licensed and the weather was assessed The assets of Tian Da Local Nature Co are to be frozen after at least four people died after falling into the Beishi River (北勢溪) on an outing the company had organized on Saturday, the Taipei City Government said yesterday. Six people — two adults and four children — were washed away by a flash flood on the river in New Taipei City’s Hubaotan (虎豹潭) area. They were participating in a Nature Joy Camp outdoor activity with a group of 16 adults and 15 children led by a guide surnamed Su (蘇). As of 4:30pm yesterday, four of the missing had been
Taiwanese worked more hours than people in all but three other countries in the world last year, Ministry of Labor data showed. Singapore placed first in average hours worked among the 40 economies surveyed, with an average of 2,288 hours per worker last year, the data showed. The city-state was followed by Colombia with 2,172 hours — based on 2019 data — and Mexico with 2,124 hours, it showed. Taiwan came in fourth, with 2,021 hours, it showed. South Korean workers clocked the third-most hours in Asia, with 1,908 hours, followed by Japan with 1,598 hours, it showed. However, compared with 2019, the survey found
The US 7th Fleet yesterday confirmed that a US Navy ship transited the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and Friday. “The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey [DDG 105] conducted a Taiwan Strait transit in cooperation with Royal Canadian Navy [RCN] Halifax-class frigate, HMCS Winnipeg, October 14-15, 2021,” the US 7th Fleet said in a statement. “Dewey’s and Winnipeg’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Cooperation like this represents the centerpiece of our approach to a secure and prosperous region,” it added. The transit marked the
‘COUNTERPRODUCTIVE’: The German, French and Singaporean missions said that Taiwan’s COVID-19 restrictions are hindering local projects and business operations Several foreign missions in Taiwan have urged the government to ease its strict COVID-19 border controls, which they say are hurting in-person exchanges and business operations. The missions made the appeal in response to media inquiries on how the border controls have affected their respective countries’ exchanges with Taiwan, amid growing concerns voiced privately by Taiwan-based foreign offices and businesses regarding the restrictions. Taiwan has maintained strict entry requirements since March last year, generally prohibiting most arrivals except for citizens and foreign residents, while it has required those who enter the country to undergo a stringent 14-day quarantine. Although the rules have been