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Floods in Northern Thailand Hit Burmese Refugee Camps



In this photo taken on Aug. 2, 2011, residents with their belongings wade through the floods in San Kampaeng district in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand. The flood caused by tropical storm Nock-ten that swept past Thailand's north and northeast early this week and made wide spread of the rain in the region.


MAE HONG SON, Northern Thailand—Flooding in Mae Hong Son Province of northern Thailand hit Burmese refugees camps, destroying more than 400 houses, as well as school buildings, libraries, rice stores, roads and farms, according to local sources.

According to the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), three rice stores with 2,970 bags of rice were flooded, and 406 houses in the Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camps, located in the Mae Sariang District in Mae Hong Son Province, were destroyed by the flood and landslides.

There have been no causalities thus far, but people made homeless by the floods have been forced to camp at local schools, churches and monasteries, according to the KRC.

“The main challenge for the refugees is food—they can’t make a fire and therefore they can’t cook food for themselves,” Saw Tu Tu, a spokesperson for the KRC in Mae Sariang, told The Irrawaddy on Friday,

He said that some NGOs called a meeting today to organize emergency support for refugee families effected by the flood. The NGOs included the UN High Commissioner for Refugees relief agency, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium and the KRC.

Due to the heavy rain, the Mae Sariang River flooded farms belonging to refugees on the banks of the river. Refugees in the Mae La Oon camp said they had never seen flooding this significant since the camp was established in 2004.

Thirty houses and one high school in Mae La Oon were destroyed by the flood, while other houses were also destroyed by landslide.

Road links between two Karen refugee camps and Mae Sariang town, where rice and vegetables were distributed to refugees, were also damaged by landsides resulting from the heavy rain, said a member of the Mae La Oon camp committee.

Refugees in Ban Mae Surin, a Karenni refugee camp located 60 kilometers from Mae Hong Son, are suffering from some diseases as a result of the flood.

Diarrhea had broken out even before the flood, and many residents are now experiencing eye problems, according to camp residents. According to a local source, at least one person per household has eye problems, and camp medical staff suspect it is related to their water source.

Medical support and medicine for the refugees are being delayed because of damage to the track leading to the camp.

In Ban Mai Nai Soi, which is 16 kilometers from Mae Hong Son, sesame fields farmed by ethnic Shan people were also destroyed by flooding from the Pai River.

Lone Mart, a resident of Ban Mai Nai Soi, said that the water level rose immediately and his sesame fields were destroyed by the flood. He said he lost at least 30,000-50,000 baht (US $1,000-1,670) that he invested in his sesame fields.

More than 100 Shan live in Ban Mai Nai Soi, and the planting of paddy and seeds is their main source of income. The 180 km-long Pai River originates in Pai, a mountainous area of Mae Hong Son Province, and flows down to the Mae Hong Son town.

“Almost all of the people from Nai Soi depend on the Pai River for their incomes. We owe many things to the river, but this time it destroyed our fields,” said Lone Mart.

In total, nine people died and six are missing in landslides, drowning and other storm and flood related incidents in Thailand’s north and northeast, as the number of flood-hit provinces rose to 17, reported Thai News Agency MCOT, which quoted Thailand’s Public Health Ministry’s deputy permanent secretary, Dr Narong Sahamethapat.

The northern province of Mae Hong Son recorded the highest number of deaths with three people, two of them boys, dying in landslides triggered by incessant downpours in Sop Moei District. Chiang Mai registered two deaths, while Sukhothai, Sakon Nakhon, Phrae and Udon Thani provinces had one death each.


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