Back to school for refugee camp students

The heavy monsoon rains hammered the north of Thailand in early and middle August, breaking the banks of the Mae Sariang River in Mae Hong Song province and flooding two refugee camps and nearby villages. The floodwaters destroyed 400 houses in the camps, made 2,000 people homeless, destroyed 2,000 sacks of rice and hundreds of bags of other essential foodstuffs. All school in the two refugee camps in the area had to close because of the floodwaters. Nan Thoo Lei reports.

Refugee families who lost their homes in the floods are still living under temporary plastic sheeting, but say they are pleased to see the camp schools are starting to reopen.

Schools in Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp restarted after suspending all classes because of the heavy rain in early and middle August that devastated the Thai Burma border and flooded hundreds of houses and many schools in the refugee camps.

Saw Robert Htway, chairman of the Karen Refugee Committee said since the 2nd August, the floodwaters forced all schools in Mae Ra Ma Luang and Mae La Oon camps to close. He said it was dangerous but now the floodwater have gone down, schools are being reopened.

“Many houses had been covered with floodwater, more than 600 students lost their textbooks, notebooks and other school materials. Students have to share materials now, but at least the school are reopened and running.”

Mae Ra Ma Luang camp has over 8,000 students – from nursery to high school in a total of 20 schools. Mae La Oon camp has as many as 6,000 students in 10 schools, including primary and high schools.

A KRC staff member based in Mae Sariang said floodwaters destroyed over 300 houses in Ma Ra Ma Luang and over 60 houses in Mae La Oon. KRC said the floodwater may have gone down, but refugee families who have lost their homes in the floods are still without housing.

“They are staying under plastic makeshift shelters and are been supported by NGOs and KRC with ropes, clothes, buckets, plates and other household utensils.”

Getting to school for some children is proving to be difficult. The main bridge that crossed the river from Section 7 to the main section of Mae Ra Ma Luang had been swept away by the flood and has yet to be rebuilt leaving schoolchildren with no alternative but to use a boat to cross the river and get to school.

Refugee camp officials estimate the flood and destruction of food rations, houses, the bridge and schools will cost as much as 1 billion baht.

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