Karen refugee camp

Trip Start Apr 26, 2005
1
5
16
Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

On our last day in northern Thailand we visited a Karen refugee camp on the Burmese border.

The Karen here are different from the Karen we stayed with, there are 3 main types here, the red Karen, the long neck Karen and the long ear Karen. They all had to leave Burma about years ago when the Karen started a war of independence with the Burmese government.

Although the Karen won and now have a semi-independent state many of these peoples homes are outside that area and if they returned they would be persecuted.

Unfortunately the 2 halves of the Karen (Christian & Buddhist) in the independent state have started fighting each other. The Burmese government is taking advantage of the situation and independence for the Burmese Karen may be short lived.

These people are pretty desperate, they cannot farm because Thai restrictions on this side of the border and landmines on the other. They make a little money working as cheap labour and selling crafts to the few tourists who come this way. If you are ever in the area make sure you come and shop.

Despite it all they are lovely people who were very friendly. Through Chan, we chatted to a lot of people. Chan had to navigate through 3 different dialects. They try very hard to make the camp nice and improve themselves by self education. One of the long neck Karen girls told us in perfect English that when she explained to a British guy that she was from Burma that he thought she meant Birmingham! Fool.

after we left the camp Chan took us for a late lunch in a small roadside restaurant. He ordered a selection of off-the-menu dishes that turned into one of the best meals we have ever had in Thailand.

A short hop flight to Chang Mai and we boarded the night train to Bangkok with minutes to spare. We both had weird dreams as we slept on the train that we were flying through space. A huge culture shock after such a wilderness experience and getting to know people whose lives are so different to our own.
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