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Camp births raise alarm
>From July 7th Bangkok Post)
Camp births raise alarm
Officials complain of lack of contraceptives
The rapidly increasing number of Karen refugees living in Ratchaburi's
Suan Phung district is worrying Thai health chiefs.
They say that the inadequate provision of contraceptives means hundreds
of children are being born, placing an additional strain on already
hard-pressed medical workers.
The refugee population in Baan Tham Hin refugee camp has increased from
2,500 in March to the present 7,444.
The district's public health chief Preecha Tuankrua said there were now
more than 300 pregnant women in the camp.
"We have to do something to control the fertility rate among Karen
refugees, otherwise we will have to bear the burden of the increasing
population," he said.
The authorities are now planning to provide contraceptives, as before
May 16 only 100 people had been helped. In addition, one-third of the
population of the camp in Suan Phung are children aged under 12.
Although local health authorities have been working with the refugees,
non-governmental organisations such as Medicin Sans Frontier (MSF) have
been mainly responsible for dealing with illnesses in the camp.
More seriously ill patients who cannot be handled by the NGOs are
referred to the district hospital.
Karen camp doctor, Dr Sunny Ramond, said 100 to 200 patients a day were
treated for minor illnesses.
He used to work at Htee Hta Hospital in Burma, about 30 kilometres from
the Kanchanaburi border, before fleeing from Burmese troops.
The doctor said the most common diseases in the camp were malaria,
diarrhoea and respiratory infections, and most children were suffering
The district health centre said that between March and May there were
11,945 refugee visits to the local hospital and 821 people were
Suan Phung Hospital director, Dr Chatchai Thuntham, said more than five
hospital employees were helping the NGOs in the camp.
Dr Chatchai said although DDT had been sprayed in the area and mosquito
nets had been provided to all the tents at Baan Tham Hin camp, there was
still a high incidence of malaria. Of blood tests performed on 340
people in the camp, 36 had malaria.
Health officials have also provided clean water and toilets. Currently
20 families are sharing one toilet.
Dr Chatchai also urged senior administrators at ministry level to do
something to protect officials who have to travel more than 30
kilometres to the camp each day.
"We have problems with a shortage of vehicles and medical equipment. We
have only one pick-up truck which is used as an ambulance," he said.
Deputy Health Minister Sora-at Klinpratum, who recently visited Baan
Tham Hin camp promised that the refugees would be given shelter until
Burma's internal problems were sorted out.
He said the fact that the camp had been shifted further into Thailand
indicated the authority's commitment to protecting the refugees. Baan
Tham Hin camp is about 11 kilometres from the border and south of
"THERE WILL BE NO REAL DEMOCRACY IF WE CAN'T GURANTEE THE RIGHTS OF THE
MINORITY ETHNIC PEOPLE. ONLY UNDERSTANDING THEIR SUFFERING AND HELPING
THEM TO EXERCISE THEIR RIGHTS WILL ASSIST PREVENTING FROM THE
DISINTEGRATION AND THE SESESSION." "WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THEIR
STRENGTH, WE CAN'T TOPPLE THE SLORC AND BURMA WILL NEVER BE IN PEACE."
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