Mae La Refugee Camp by Phil Thorton

Refugee Camp Suicide Rates Soar

Refugee camp officials on the Thai Burma are hugely concerned that suicides among camp residents are climbing.

Saw Pha Htaw, social affair coordinator for Mae La refugee camp said that the rise in the suicide rate in Mae La camp this year is now causing a lot of concern.

Speaking to Karen News, Saw Pha Htaw said.

“We have seen in the past that suicide cases were related mostly to drug usage, but now the trend has changed – we are still investigating to try to figure out the reasons behind the most recent cases.”

The latest case has sent shock waves through Mae La refugee camp.

On December 2, a young Karen refugee couple killed themselves by drinking pesticide – the young woman was pregnant.

The couple lived in section 5 of Zone B and the section leader of the camp committee confirmed the death of the couple.

Mahn Shwe Hline, section leader of B-5 spoke to Karen News.

“They were just a young couple. They took the pesticide used for plants to kill themselves. There is still no clear motive of why they suicided.”

Young adult camp residents born in the camp have expressed their frustrations about not being recognized as citizens by either the Thai or Burmese governments.

In a recent video, Inside the Fence, refugees explained to Karen News, that it was not only the physical fence around the camps that they had to deal with.

Young refugees stressed that the ‘mental fences’ played havoc with their minds – fear of being arrested and the fear of a world that has dramatically changed while they remained within the confines of a refugee camp.

It is reported that the young Mae La couple died at the 3pm at the camp hospital and were identified as camp residents. Karen News has withheld the names of the couple.

Camp record shows that 13 people have died from suicide during this year and camp officials said that there have also been suicide attempts that were averted and attempted suicides that have gone unreported and are not recorded.

Mae La refugee camp has been home for almost 30 years to as many as 40,000 refugees who had fled armed conflict, militarization and human right violations in Burma.

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