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.
Taiwan does not exclude the possibility of having formal diplomatic relations with countries that also have formal ties with China, regardless of Beijing’s stance, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said on Sunday. There was speculation in 2012 that Honduras was attempting to have simultaneous diplomatic relations with Taiwan and China, an idea that then-minister of foreign affairs David Lin (林永樂) rejected. Honduras severed formal ties with Taiwan on Sunday morning after establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has taken a more practical approach to relations with like-minded countries since assuming government in 2016. Previous administrations took the
Seven senior faculty members, including the principal, of a high school in Taichung were temporarily suspended from their jobs on Friday, pending an investigation by the Taichung Education Bureau into alleged bullying and abuse that led to the suicide of a student last month. The city’s education officials were too slow to suspend those involved, the student’s father told a news conference on Wednesday, at which Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅) and members of the Humanistic Education Foundation were also present. The boy had been a good student and a high achiever during elementary and junior-high, and had
Taiwan would have established formal relations with Argentina long ago if not for China’s interference, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Yui told US-based Spanish-language online news outlet Infobae in an interview published on Tuesday. Beijing has left behind a string of unfulfilled promises in Latin America, including pledges to build the Grand Nicaragua Canal and airports, docks, ports and industrial zones in El Salvador, he said. Meanwhile, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and other countries enjoy pragmatic and improving relations with Taiwan based on cooperation on the economy, culture, technology and science, he said. While Taiwan is “happy to live and let live,”
WASHED ASHORE: Of the 16 bodies discovered along Taiwan’s west coast this month, two were Vietnamese and five were Taiwanese, coast guard officials said Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that he has instructed prosecutors and maritime authorities to launch investigations after 16 bodies were found along Taiwan’s west coast this month, amid speculation that they were victims of smuggling or human trafficking rings. Coast Guard Administration (CGA) officials said the bodies, most of which had washed ashore, were found by coast guard personnel and local residents along the coastline from Keelung to Kaohsiung. Thirteen of the bodies are male and three are female, the CGA said, adding that items found on the bodies indicate that two of the men were Vietnamese, while three men