New Food Delivery System for Refugee Camps on Thai Border

By Saw Yan Naing 28 July 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — A collective of humanitarian agencies, The Border Consortium (TBC), will introduce a new system of food provision, using electronic cards, at the end of this month for Burmese refugees living on Thai-Burma border.

While it is currently common for refugees to queue for hours to receive food rations at designated stores at certain times, the new scheme envisages refugees being able to shop for food at their own chosen time, using cards pre-loaded with credit. With one card to be issued per household, the amount of credit will vary according to household size.

Small shops selling a range of goods can already be found within and nearby the refugee camps along the border. Under the scheme, shopkeepers would be given electronic devices, allowing them to receive credit from the new cards.

Saw Tu Tu, a spokesperson for the Karen Refugee Committee’s branch office in Mae Sariang, northern Thailand spoke to The Irrawaddy, commending the new system for providing for greater convenience for refugees.

They can buy meat, fish, eggs, vegetables or whatever they want within the credit limit. It is an improvement because people won’t need to queue for a long time to receive food rations,” said Saw Tu Tu.

He said the card system would first be implemented in two refugee camps—Nu Po in Tak Province and Tham Hin in Ratchaburi Province—from the end of this month, before being rolled out to the other refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border in 2017. Both shoppers and sellers will be trained in using the cards.

The cards, which will be disbursed to all heads of household, will be red in color and feature the logos of TBC, the Karen Refugee Committee and the Karenni Refugee Committee, who are all involved in the provision of basic needs to refugees along the Thai-Burma border.

Saw Tuu Tu also believed that the card system would save the annual cost of transporting stockpiles of food and other supply rations and preserving them in stores within the camps over long periods.

There are currently nine camps along Thai-Burma border hosting over 120,000 refugees from Burma. Refugees have formally received rations of rice, cooking oil, salt, beans and fish paste at certain scheduled times.

Under the new card system, some basic supplies, including charcoal, would be still delivered via the old system.

TBC comprises 10 international non-governmental organizations from eight, mostly European, countries, and has been providing food, shelter and other services for refugees escaping conflict in Burma since 1984.