In what is bad news for the 130,000 refugees living on the Thai Burma border, the Thailand’s Meteorological Department has forecast that the country’s cold weather is to continue into late January.
The deputy director of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, Mr Oparg Karankawinpong, confirmed on Thursday for reporters, that as many as 63 people in 24 provinces have died from cold-related ailments since the cold season started in late October. The Thai Meteorological Department said that the hardest hit regions are in Thailand’s north and northeast.
Refugees living the in nine camps along Thailand’s western border are especially feeling the cold. The thin bamboo walls and leaf roofs of their small huts provide little protection against the cold mountain winds.
Naw Kler Soe, a student living in Mae La camp told Karen News that this year is the coldest she has experienced.
“It has never been this cold in the past, only this year is very cold. It’s hard for us to get up early and get ready for school. Some people don’t have enough blankets or warm clothes. School starts at 9am, but it is still very cold even at that time. Some of my neighbors get sickness such as running nose, fever and headache because of the cold weather.”
Saw Eh Pwo, a teacher at Mae La said he is worried about the cold.
“It is very cold this year. We worry our children will get sick because of the cold. It is worse for people in Zone C whose houses were destroyed in fire and they haven’t finished rebuilding their houses. Some houses still doesn’t have wall so, it is hard for them to cope with the cold.”
Naw Htoo, a resident at the Umphiem Mai camp said the cold winds of the mountains blow right through the camp.
“It’s freezing cold now. Normally, Umphiem camp is cold because it located on the mountain but this cold is different. The wind also blow and the cold feel like getting inside the bones. I got a fever and still have it. My youngest daughter [1 year old] gets a running nose quite often. We feel like we don’t want to get out of bed.”
Naw Htoo said it is hard to keep warm in the camps thin bamboo huts.
“We have to put together two-three sheets of blanket to keep us warm. Sometimes, we make fire on the stove put in the middle of the room and our whole family sit around it.”
An aid worker told Karen News that blankest and extra warm clothing are available to refugees on request.
“The elderly, young children and the sick should take extra care and if they need extra clothing they should contact the camp managers.”
The aid worker said that Umphiem Mai and Noe Poe camps situated in the mountains in Thailand’s Tak Province are “bloody cold.”
A refugee camp resident at Umphiem Mai told Karen News that the people are freezing and that they are “lighting fires under the house to keep warm.”
A medic at the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai Burma border reinforced Thai public health warnings that children, the elderly and people fighting illnesses are particularly at risk and should ensure they get enough to eat and wear additional warm clothing.
The Thai Meteorological Department website confirms that minimum temperatures will continue to be between 8 to 13°C. And that it will be “very cold on the mountain top with frost in some places, minimum temperatures will be 2 to 8°C.”
The Bangkok Post reported that “forty-five provinces have been declared cold-spell disaster zones and more than 25 million people in [Thailand] have been affected by the cold weather.”
The Thai Meteorological Department said that this year’s cold season is the country’s longest in 10 years and so far has lasted three months.