Brandon Kaung

As Interviewed by Tyler Kaung, March 17,2013

Brandon Kaung: In His Own Words

My name is Brandon Kaung. For my living, I work as a sushi chef at Hyatt Regency in Austin, Texas. I am 47 years old, married, [and] have two kids of [ages] 7 and 12. I was born in Burma.

Generally speaking, I have been in this country for over a decade, I don’t see any human rights issues here. In Myanmar, I saw of human rights issues nearly everywhere. To be honest with you, in big cities, no law enforcement is practiced, corruption and bribery are common practiced and in remote areas, military soldiers are attacking minority people like Kachin in Kachin State.

During [the] world famous 8888 uprising, I actively participated in demonstrations against the Ne Win dictator government because the government was unfair. For example, one thing that is very obvious to me is that if we applied to get a phone line, it would take so many years and needed bribery. If we were relatives of the military dictatorship, it would take only two days.

I left for Guam in 2000 because I couldn't find a decent job that had advancements for [a] better future, even [though] I had a 4-year degree there [in Burma]. It took time to get out of Burma; a friend of mine gave me information to go to Guam, a territory of the US. I made a serious thinking about my life, my family, my future, everything. Being honest with you, from Burma to go aboard [a ship] is a long way [to Guam], and is a really big deal. I got through a broker to get a passport that was very expensive to an ordinary person. It cost me about $200.

First, I tried to get information to go to Guam through a travel agency. Then I managed to contact a passport broker to get a passport. I got the passport [after the] broker done that process. That processing required about my personal information about why and where I needed to go. First I got out of Burma to Thailand just for transit. I stayed there about 10 hours. Then I continued to Taiwan, also for transit. As you expected, I chose the cheapest ticket that had two transits with long hours [of wait]. In Taiwan, it took 12 hours. Then I got to Guam, where I stayed about 9 months to get granted a political asylum. After that, I came to New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and then Texas. Now I have been in the U.S. for nearly 13 years.

When I was in Guam, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service arranged me to go to New York City. They helped me to apply for a Social Security [Number], ID, food stamps, for matching grants, finding an apartment for me, [and] also looking for me a good [job] that could make my living.

Generally speaking, I know a little about the organizations. You know you will see good people and bad people in your life. It is up to me if I make a good or bad choice.

Regarding Burma though, I want to help people for their education. If I have a chance, I go back to Burma to contact Daw Suu and tried to mention what I can do to help them.

Regarding human rights issues in Burma, you know there is still fighting in Kachin State [which is] very terrible. That is why I try to mention to give more pressure [to] the current Thein Sein government to make a serious change, not just live service.