24 Dec 2013 08:00
The Thai-Burmese border area is an exotic and dangerous paradise at the same time. However, for most people, it is unknown.
Nearly 30 years ago, the first Karen minority refugees who escaped Myanmar arrived to this area. Today more than 50,000 people are living at the Maela refugee camp, situated 70 km north of MaeSot, a recently economically booming border city.
Although at first glance this might seem like an idyllic village, where the quality of life of its inhabitants is much higher than the "normal" standard of other refugees around the world, the Burmese who live in the camp have suffered the most atrocious violence by the Myanmar army. The majority of the camp resident are Christians. During Christmas Eve and holy days, they celebrate in the numerous Churches spread around the camp. Night shows and masses attract the devotes to the Churches and presents are distributed. The camp's residents have been stuck in a small corner of tropical forest with no choice but to live with dignity between the barbed wire fences surrounding the camp, under strict control of the Thai army.
A ceasefire was signed between the Karen leaders and the Myanmar authorities. However,there are many rumors about the Karen being repatriated back to their country which is a first step on the long way of reconciliation.