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Mae Sariang area

Mae Sariang TBC Field office

164 Moo 12
Bankat,
Mae Sariang,
Mae Hong Son 58110
email: tbcmsr@theborderconsortium.org

Mae Sariang field office provides support to two camps, Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang, in Mae Hong Son Province.

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Mae La Oon camp

Orientation
Location: Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son Province
Distance from Border: 2 kms in a straight line, 3 kms down the Yuam river
Distance from Mae Sariang: - Sob Moei, approx. 75 kms/ 2½ hours driving time in normal conditions
- Mae Sam Laep, 90 kms/ 3½ hours driving time in normal conditions
Accessibility: Car: all-year-round access; 4WD + chains required in the rainy season
Boat: access from Mae Saam Laep (or Mae Ngao with 5 hour walk)
Phone: no mobile phone coverage. Mobile phone coverage is available in a nearby village approx. 20 mins away.
Note: Due to its isolated location, arrangements can be made for visitors to sleep overnight in the camp
Camp Geography: Area 800 rai (320 ha)

History
Mae La Oon is a result of a history of refugee camp consolidations in the Mae Sariang / Salween area. Originally, the area was the site of a number of smaller camps set up during 1995 when the Burma Army managed to take over the KNU headquarters at Manerplaw and extend its presence along larger stretches of the Moei and Salween rivers which was previously home to Karen villages and KNU bases. These newly-formed refugee camps included Mae Yeh Hta, U Dah, Klo Pa, Mae S’Ku, Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha.

Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha were located along the same stream – originally about 3 kms from each other – and at first had a combined population of about 4,000. As the populations increased, Ban Sala stretched upstream and Mae Khong Kha extended downstream until, in 1998, they were only separated by a 10-minute walk.

In March 1998, the Thai authorities consolidated the other Salween camp populations into these two camps, and about 3,700 refugees moved into the sites, effectively causing the two camps to merge. This was officially recognised in September 1998 when the site was renamed as a single camp – Mae Khong Kha – and a single camp committee selected. Earlier, in June, Section 13 was created in the camp to house more than 450 Burmese students who had fled following the Burma Army’s capture of the ABSDF base at Wei Gyi. However, even after the merger, the camp was still commonly referred to by its two parts – Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha.

In September 2002, the camp experienced a devastating ‘flash flood’. Tragically, 26 refugees lost their lives in the flooding, which also resulted in major damage to camp infrastructure. Over 250 houses were completely destroyed and another 230 were severely damaged. Two high schools, eight primary schools, one nursery, four camp administration offices, five NGO offices, four reception centres and two OPD clinics were also completely destroyed. The Thai authorities co-ordinated with NGOs and the UNHCR to mount a rapid emergency relief effort, which proved to be highly effective despite having to operate in very adverse weather conditions.

Due to its isolation, the camp is off the mains electricity grid, although the camp office, and health, education and social centres in the camp do have access to power from electric generators.

Demographics

TBC Feeding Population: 13,759 (March 2012)

Breakdown by Age
<5 Yrs
5-17 Yrs
Adult
14.5%
34.8%
50.7%
Breakdown by Gender
Female
Male
49.57%
50.43%
Breakdown by Ethnicity
Karen
Burman
Other
99.33%
0.57%
0.1%

Resettlement (Source: IOM)
In 2005, RTG gave approval for resettlement opportunities to be offered to camp residents. Statistics for resettlement by camp are available since 2006. As of December 2011, 6,619 people have departed from Mae La Oon, with the majority resettling in the USA and Australia.

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Mae Ra Ma Luang camp

Orientation
Mae Ra Ma Luang is also known as Mae Ra Moe or Mae Ra Mu in Karen language.

Location: Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son Province
Distance from Border: 4 kms in a straight line, 6 kms down the Yuam river
Distance from Mae Sariang: Mae Sam Laep, 90 kms/ 4 hours driving time in normal conditions
Accessibility: Car: All-year-round access; 4WD + chains required in the rainy season.
Boat: Access from Mae Saam Laep downstream approx. 1½ hrs (or Mae Ngao with 5 hr walk).
Phone: No mobile phone coverage. However, phone coverage is available in a nearby village approx. 30 mins away.
Note: Due to its isolated location, arrangements can be made for visitors to sleep overnight in the camp.
Camp Geography: Area 1,600 rai (256 ha)

History
Mae Ra Ma Luang lies opposite Manerplaw – the old headquarters of the Karen resistance, and home to many of the pro-democracy groups that fled crackdowns following the demonstrations throughout Burma in 1988. This area has since been occupied by Burma Army and DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) troops, but renewed fighting and military operations in this specific part of the borderlands has erupted again following the 2010 elections.

Mae Ra Ma Luang was first set up in February 1995, following the fall of Manerplaw. Initially, a large number of the people living in areas around Manerplaw fled to Mae To Lah village on the Thai side. Upon agreement with Thai authorities and local landowners, they were soon allowed to relocate to the present site. People from Mae Po Hta camp, which was also deserted following the Burma Army’s capture of the area were initially relocated to Huai Haeng, but gradually moved to the present site by November 1995.

In March 1995, Section 1 of the camp was attacked by Burma Army and DKBA troops. During this attack several houses and 1 rice warehouse was burned down, and 1 refugee shot dead. However since then there have been no direct or indirect attacks on this camp.

The initial population of Mae Ra Ma Luang was about 4,500+. However, in February/March 1998 during the consolidation of the Salween camps to the north, there was a further influx of about 2-3,000 refugees who did not want to relocate to the consolidation camps of Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha (now known as Mae La Oon). The camp extended southwards to accommodate these new residents to where the Mae Ra Ma Luang river flows into the larger Yuam river. This new part of the camp became Section 7, and actually straddles the provincial boundary between Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces.

Since then, the population has steadily increased due to more new arrivals. However, this increase rapidly increased from the end of 2005 and during 2006 and has continued growing at a rapid rate since. This has been in most part to renewed offensives from the SPDC. Such prolonged offensives seriously threaten lives and food security, whereby many IDPs can no longer find adequate coping strategies.

Due to its isolation, the camp is off the mains electricity grid, although the camp office, and health, education and social centres in the camp do have access to power from electric generators. Hydro electricity is widely generated in the camp, mainly to recharge vehicle batteries to power household lighting.

Demographics

TBC Feeding Population: 15,750 (March 2012)

Breakdown by Age
<5 Yrs
5-17 Yrs
Adult
13.5%
37.4%
49.1%
Breakdown by Gender
Female
Male
50%
50%
Breakdown by Ethnicity
Karen
Burman
Other
99.76%
0.14%
0.10%

Resettlement (Source: IOM)
In 2005, RTG gave approval for resettlement opportunities to be offered to camp residents. Statistics for resettlement by camp are available since 2006. As of December 2011, 5,892 people have departed from Mae Ra Ma Luang, with the majority resettling in the USA and Australia.

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