Karen Woman Found Dead Outside Refugee Camp

By Nyein Nyein 25 September 2013

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A Karen refugee woman who disappeared two days ago was found dead on Wednesday morning at the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand’s Tak Province.

Shwe Hla Aye, 37, originally from Hlaing Bwe Township in Burma’s Karen State, disappeared from the camp on Monday afternoon. Her body was discovered at 7 am on Wednesday, with all her clothes except her bra removed.

Family members reported the disappearance on Monday night to Daw Aye, a member of the Karen Women Organization who handles abuse cases for girls and women. Daw Aye said photographs were posted of the missing woman around the camp but that search attempts on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

On Monday, rations for the refugees were distributed. When Shwe Hla’s name was called, however, she did not come forward for her share. She had reportedly gone to the camp grocery store to make some purchases, but her neighbors said she never returned.

Saw Honest, the new chairman of Mae La camp, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the woman’s neck was broken. “Her chest seemed to have been hit by something tough,” he added. “We’re not sure whether she was raped. Thai authorities have been investigating.”

Daw Aye said a Thai police-investigator and doctors arrived at the scene at about 9 am.

“They said, the body must be brought to a hospital in Bangkok if the family wants to know whether she was raped or not,” Daw Aye said. “But they did not guarantee to cover the cost, so the family members decided not to go, as they cannot afford it, and will bury her right away.”

Shwe Hla Aye has been living in the refugee camp for more than a decade, with certification from the UN refugee agency. She was a widow with two children.

Amoegyi, her neighbor, said, “She had no problem with the neighbors, she was quiet. But nobody knows how this happened to her.”

Camp residents said the woman had been mentally ill, with a history of losing consciousness.

Refugees said such cases of disappearance and death were rare but that several rape cases were reported every year.