Thailand Day 18: Mae La Refugee Camp

Due to recent attacks by the Burmese army just a couple of hours drive north of the camp, the security is extremely tight with curfews in place. Life has become even more tense than normal in the past few weeks. Sneaking in to the camp through a small secret entrance, I met my contact and we hurriedly made our way to our rendezvous with the political prisoners currently living here. This was not the first time we had been in the camp and yet it got more difficult each time. It was only possible to photograph 3 former prisoners as it was not safe for many others to leave their house or be seen outside of their zone within the camp. Checkpoint at Mae La refugee campMae La, the largest refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border, is home to 32,000 refugees. That’s the official UNHCR number, however in reality there are closer to 45,000+ people living in the camp as many go un-registered as they do not meet the UNHCR classification for refugee status. For example, victims of Cyclone Nargis, that tore through the Irrawaddy delta in May 2008 will not be registered as refugees and since the Saffron Revolution in 2007 thousands more have fled from all over Burma including from the ongoing attacks in Karen state and entered the camp illegally in hope of seeking their salvation.

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