Note: You can help the The Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, details HERE.
Damir Sagolj:- MAE SOT, Thailand, Jan 7 (Reuters) – The rubbish dump outside the Thai town of Mae Sot steams with rancid rotting fish and other debris, a squalid haven for hundreds of refugees from Myanmar that aid groups say could swell in size this year. Aid groups are bracing for a rise in refugees from military-ruled Myanmar into neighbouring Thailand and China ahead of its first parliamentary elections in two decades this year, potentially straining ties with its neighbours and worsening crowded refugee camps in Thailand.
Some who fled to Thailand are living in dire conditions. In one settlement, about 300 migrants who crossed illegally into Thailand have taken refuge next to mounds of garbage outside Mae Sot, about 5 km (3 miles) from the border. Life amongst the rubbish beats what they had back home, they said. Some ethnic minorities have faced a military campaign marked by murder, forced labour, rape and the razing of villages.
“I want to stay here and save some money because I can keep what I earn and no one harasses me, even if the job is hard and dirty,” said Sen Sen, a 38-year-old ethnic Karen. People run out of makeshift shacks and line up neatly whenever garbage trucks arrive, waiting to dig through the rubbish as it is unloaded in search of goods for recycling. Barefoot boys and girls sort through piles of trash, occasionally distracted by the broken toys and mud-caked dolls they uncover. Sen Sen earns about 100 baht ($3) a day selling plastic, which she said was enough to live on. In Myanmar she had to give almost all the money she managed to earn to military officers as “protection money” and taxes.
The Myanmar junta has long been accused of persecution of the country’s ethnic minorities, sparking a continuing exodus. Some 140,000 refugees live in official camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, according to the U.N. refugee agency. An estimated 37,000 fled into China in August after government forces routed fighters loyal to a Chinese-speaking Kokang ethnic group, earning Myanmar’s generals a rare rebuke from China, a crucial ally and investor. Thousands fled into Thailand in June when the army clashed with the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel group that has been seeking independence in the eastern hills bordering Thailand for the past 60 years.
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