World Refugee Day – Masu's story

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Masu was a former refugee from Myanmar. She lived in Mae La Camp in Thailand from young to early adulthood.

She attended schooling in the camps right up to high school. After marriage, Masu lived with her husband at Umpiem Mai Camp in Thailand.

In 2006 the UNHCR opened the door for refugee people to resettle in a third country. A lot of refugee people resettled in the United States of America. A small number of refugee people went to other countries. Masu and her family got the chance to resettle in New Zealand. Ma Su, her husband, Maung Maung Oo, son Bayshi and baby daughter Ma May boarded the plane and arrived in New Zealand on 21 March 2014.  She has not looked back since.

We are proud to share this touching article written by Masu:

Happy and Sad in 2019

My name is Ma Su. I come from Myanmar. I became a refugee when I was young. Before I arrived in the refugee camp. I didn’t know anything about human rights and the political situation in Myanmar and nobody talked about human rights.

I only knew when the Burmese Soldiers came into the village and all the men ran away. The soldiers took everything they wanted in the house and in the village. e.g, rice, chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, and vegetables. They didn’t ask anybody. They could do what they wanted.

While I was in the camp, I went to school. At school I learnt about human rights and I understood what it meant. Everyone has their rights ie. human rights, women rights and children rights.

One of my teachers said that she went to study in India for five years. When she had been in India for five years, she applied for Indian citizenship. The government allowed her to apply for Indian citizenship. She said “I never imagined that one day I would become a citizen of any country. Because I was a refugee and my parents were five or seven generation in Myanmar, they didn’t have any identification because of their religion”. Most of the people in Myanmar who believed the Islam religion were discriminated against by the Myanmar government. They couldn’t apply for Myanmar citizenship.

I’ve been in New Zealand for five years this year. I talked to my home tutor, Cathy about applying for New Zealand citizenship. She said “yes, sure” and brought the forms for us and helped me to fill in the forms.

English Language Partners' learner Masu at her citizenship ceremony

After we filled in the forms I made an appointment for an interview. We went to the interview on 13th February 2019. When I went to the interview nobody asked me, “what’s your religion”? They just asked me “what country were you born in”? What country “were your parents born in”? They didn’t mind what religion I believed in.

After the interview in March 2019 we received the letter from Internal Affairs. It said “you will become a citizen at this ceremony and will then be eligible to apply for a New Zealand passport”. I was surprised and so happy!  While I was happy immediately we heard some bad news. The Christchurch Mosque was attacked and many people died. It was so sad but how good was our New Zealand prime minister. She showed respect for the people, love and sympathy. She didn’t mind what kind of people they were, she loved all human beings. I felt very sad but am very proud of our prime minister. If every country’s leader was like our New Zealand Prime Minister, there would be no more refugees in the world.

On 15th April I received another letter from Internal Affairs. It included an invitation to a Palmerston North citizenship ceremony on 7th May. I was so happy and excited to be attending the ceremony and I felt that now we could be truly New Zealanders. I felt excited and proud that I could hold the New Zealand passport and I could travel overseas like a tourist. I was so happy even in my dreams.

On 7th May we attended the ceremony. There were many different people who became New Zealand citizens from lots of different countries. The MP for Palmerston North, Palmerston North City Council, Multicultural Centre people attended. They gave us a very warm welcome and said congratulations and thank you. I was happy and excited that day as Cathy attended the ceremony with us and gave me support and flowers.

My happiness was not to last longer than 21st May. I had some very sad news, Cathy had a bad car accident. I felt very sad. She is a very kind tutor.  I learnt a lot from her. She taught me a lot of things that I should know and she looked after me and my family. I could ask her anything. What I couldn’t do and what I didn’t understand. There is no easy way to settle in a new country. Normally we did the English lessons on Wednesday 1 pm but this year I am working in the afternoon and she works in the mornings so it’s not okay to meet at 1 pm. So we have arranged to meet at 7 pm. How she cares for me!  She is a wonderful volunteer and my guardian angel. Sometimes the weather was so bad but she came on time and taught me. I share my happiness and sadness with her. I love her a lot!

Now, I’m not happy anymore, because she had a very bad accident and she had to use the wheelchair. So life is full of happiness and sadness.


Cathy McIvor has been doing an amazing job home tutoring Masu since August 2014. Cathy has been teaching Masu all aspects of living an independent life in New Zealand.  She taught Masu the Road Code and was her driving mentor until Masu gained her restricted license.  She supported Masu in registering her young daughter into kindergarten and school.

At the beginning of this year Masu set a new goal to apply for New Zealand citizenship. Cathy supported her in filling the application forms for the family.

Congratulations Masu for achieving New Zealand citizenship and a huge thank you to Cathy for your wonderful contribution in “Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”!  Wishing you a speedy recovery from the car accident.

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