Flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains killed two residents of Mae La refugee camp this week. According to Saw Ah Mu, the camp security officer, Saw Pe Klay 19, a high school student, was swept away by the fast floodwaters in the Htee Nu stream as he was crossing on his way to school.
Saw Ah Mu said that Saw Pe Klay’s was one of many students who tried to cross the flooded stream, some as young as 10.
“Saw Pe Klay, couldn’t swim and drown. One of his friends was about 10, but he could swim and was able to get to safety. People saw the incident and thought the kids were playing so they didn’t pay attention. There was heavy rain for about a week in the camp and the current of the flooded stream was strong.”
The following day, Saw Pah Pana 54, he fell into the flooded stream while crossing a rudimentary bridge. According to his family, Saw Pah Pana was coming home at about 8pm after buying.
“He went out to buy food. He slipped off the bridge in B5 Section and fell into the stream. The current was strong – no one could get to him in time to help him. We still haven’t found his body.”
Mae La refugee camp officials are still trying to recover the body of Saw Pah Pana.
So far camp residents say there has not been any damage to the houses by the constant rain.
Saw Ah Mu said Mae La camp is divided into three zones – A, B and C that consist of 22 sections. He says there have been floods in the past but these two deaths are the first incidents of refugees being killed by floods in the camp.
The heavy rain that lashed northern Thailand destroy farmland, and the Thai government’s interior permanent secretary Wichian Chavalit was reported as saying floods had affected as many as 1,204,358 people and turned 30 provinces into disaster zones.
Mae La camp, the biggest refugee camp along Thai-Burma border is about 60 kilometers from the Thai border town of Mae Sot and has been lashed by the heavy rains for more than a week.