Dan­ger­ous pas­sion finds an out­let

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By ES­THER LAUAKI

Dong Hkong La Kang was mar­ried only five days be­fore he was ar­rested, beaten and in­ter­ro­gated for 18 days at a Burmese mil­i­tary camp, then left for dead in the jun­gle.

‘‘I have a long, long story,’’ he says, as he re­flects on how much life has changed since he es­caped his home­land and ar­rived in New Zealand with his then preg­nant wife Kail­ing as refugees in Oc­to­ber 2007.

He now lives in Wai­tan­girua and de­lights in tend­ing to his small gar­den, con­struct­ing raised flower beds and nur­tur­ing a worm farm. But this pas­sion nearly cost him his life three years ago.

Burma’s mil­i­tary govern­ment took ex­cep­tion to an agri­cul­ture book Dong Hkong had writ­ten for farm­ers in Kachin State about soil ero­sion, global warm­ing and teak tree cul­ti­va­tion. Sol­diers beat him and pressed him for in­for­ma­tion about where the book had been il­le­gally pub­lished.

‘‘I took them to a small vil­lage and, while the sol­diers drank beer at a com­mu­nity leader’s house, I jumped out the win­dow. They didn’t think I could run be­cause I was so badly beaten, but I ran. They thought I would die out there.’’

Dong Hkong hid in the jun­gle on the Chi­nese border for a month be­fore tak­ing refuge in China and later in Malaysia.

A year and a half later he was re­united with wife Kail­ing, then they trav­elled here.

Now with two New Zealand-born chil­dren, Dong Hkong helps other Burmese fam­i­lies re­set­tle in Porirua. He gives them work, through a small lawn-mow­ing busi­ness he runs, and passes on what he has learned.

He com­pleted a cer­tifi­cate in hor­ti­cul­ture at Whi­tireia New Zealand last year, and is now study­ing land­scap­ing at Whi­tireia.

‘‘We have to help each other. We have to look for our fu­ture. The [New Zealand] Govern­ment took care of our safety and homes, but they can’t take care of our fu­ture. We have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our own fu­ture and how we in­te­grate to­gether with each other and other cul­tures,’’ Dong Hkong says.

He wants spots at lo­cal Satur­day mar­kets for the Burmese com­mu­nity to sell home-grown pro­duce. Porirua is al­ready home to about 38 Burmese refugee fam­i­lies and four more ar­rived on Oc­to­ber 8.

Life’s good: Burmese refugee Dong Hkong La Kang, with wife Kail­ing, three-year-old son Hkong Lum and 10-month-old daugh­ter Hkong Naw.

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