32 Burmese Refugees Die in Fire at Thai Camp

By The Associated Press 23 March 2013

BANGKOK — At least 32 Burmese refugees died Friday in a raging fire at a camp in Thailand, officials said.

Mae Hong Son Gov Naramol Palawat said the fire destroyed about 100 thatch huts at the Ban Mae Surin refugee camp. She said the blaze was believed to have been started by a cooking accident. The fire was put out after about two hours, and those who lost their shelters are being temporarily housed in tents, she said.

A worker for the local emergency medical service said 32 people had died and two were severely injured and sent to a hospital in Chiang Mai, the nearest big city. The worker, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to release information, said several dozen people suffered minor injuries.

About 3,300 refugees, mostly from Burma’s Karen minority, live at the camp. More than 100,000 refugees live in Thai camps near the Burmese border, mostly ethnic Karen who fled fighting between Karen guerrillas and the government.

Fires in the camps are not uncommon, especially in the hot season, which is approaching in Thailand. The density of the housing and lack of firefighting equipment mean large numbers of shelters are often destroyed, but Friday’s death toll was unusually high.

Mae Hong Son is about 925 km (575 miles) north of Bangkok.