We are very sad to hear about the fire that tore through Mae Surin (Karenni Camp #2) Refugee Camp last week. Fires are awful tragedies anywhere, but due to the recent deeply politicized happenings in the region and the “temporary” nature of refugee camps, this fire was especially devastating.
Mae Surin Camp was established 29 years ago. Recent reports state about 3,000 people were living in this camp at the time of the fire. The houses in the camp are built out of bamboo and dried leaves, which helped the fire spread quickly through the camp. Not only were more than 400 houses destroyed, but the camp hospital was also engulfed in the flames.
While the UNHCR has sent in relief and support for the over 2,000 twice-homeless refugees, it is also important to understand another dimension to this tragedy. Many of the refugee camps in the Thai-Burma borderlands have been relocated a number of times, in order to ensure that they do not become too permanent.
Additionally. after peace talks in Myanmar, there has been discussion about closing the refugee camps so that these refugees can return ‘home’. Already the support for these refugee camps, including funding and rations has decreased. Several refugee camps have stopped registering new refugees in recent years. However, until tangible progress towards a ceasefire in Myanmar is achieved, it may be preemptive to send these refugees ‘home’. Adding this context to the recent fire in Mae Surin raises questions about the future of these twice-homeless refugees.
WUSC Regina will be following stories of these refugees closely in the coming weeks. We are sending our prayers to these people and will be fundraising in the coming days for relief efforts.
Here is a poem in response to the fire in the Mae Surin Refugee camp. It was written by one of our sponsored students, Dayday, who is from Mae Surin. Her family is still there. While they lost their home, we are glad to know that they are safe. Thank you Dayday, for your beautiful and haunting words, and thank you for letting us share this poem!
Oh….my lovely land, and my lovely people
Who makes you turn into ashes
Upon a time the place which is full of green environment
Now turns into black
Upon a time people who are full with beautiful smiles
Now turns into sorrowful faces
The river that flows through our camp is getting dry
The green environment that surrounding our camp is getting dry
Innocent children lost their life without sin
Thousand of people don’t have homes
Some lost their lovers, and some are injured
You all are in sorrow
You have no more tear to cry for it
Your tear can turn into blood if you cry more then that
The fate that you have now is real?
It just black dream for me
I don’t want to accept this event as our destiny
The God never gave us such a black day