View Full Version : Fire Swept Through A Crowded Thai Border Camp

Kanok Karn
24th February 2012, 09:34
The blaze started at about midday and quickly spread around the Umpiem Mai refugee camp, said Poth Ruwaranan, head of Phop Phra district in western Tak province.

There were no reports of casualties, but Sally Thompson of the Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), which provides food and shelter at ten border camps.

A Myanmar woman cries after her home was destroyed in a fire at the Umpiem Mai camp in Tak province, 23 February, 2012 in Thailand. The fire destroyed about 1,000 bamboo shacks at the camp for Myanmar refugees across the border in western Thailand.

More than 1,000 houses, three mosques and two nursery schools were destroyed.

Residents were not allowed to leave the camp, so those who lost their homes would have to stay with relatives or friends on the site.

More than 17,000 displaced people from Myanmar were staying in the Umpiem Mai camp as of December, according to figures from the TBBC, a group of international non-governmental organisations operating along the border.

The 10 camps were housing a total of about 136,000 people, who first began arriving in the 1980s. Many of the refugees have fled conflict zones in ethnic areas of Myanmar, also known as Burma.

About 88,000 camp residents have been registered with the UN as refugees, but while an ongoing resettlement programme has allowed tens of thousands to move to third countries, they have been replaced by new arrivals trickling across the Moei river.

Many others live illegally outside the camps, where families live cheek-by-jowl in simple bamboo and thatch dwellings.

After a new quasi-civilian government replaced the long ruling junta in Myanmar last year, Thailand announced that it wanted to shut the border camps when it was safe to do so, raising concern among their residents.

Many of the refugees are from Myanmar’s eastern Karen state, where a major rebel group, the Karen National Union signed a ceasefire deal with the new regime in January after decades of civil war.