Karen refugee camp fire in Mae Hong Son | Bangkok Post: learning

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Refugee camp fire cause still in dispute

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It is still not clear what caused the inferno that killed 37 Karen refugees and injured more than 100 in Mae Hong Song camp on Friday. Humanitarian assistance is now pouring in. Photo by Thiti Wannamontha. 

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Karen refugees attend a prayer service for those killed in the inferno at Ban Mae Surin refugee camp. Photos by Thiti Wannamontha.


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RFD steps into blaze row

Forest fire ruled out as death toll hits 37

The Royal Forest Department (RFD) has dismissed claims that Friday's refugee camp inferno was caused by a forest fire, as none had been reported nearby when the blaze broke out at the camp.

"Local forestry officials have insisted no forest fire occurred in the area that day," RFD deputy director-general Rerngchai Prayoonwet said.

Almost 40 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the blaze at Mae Surin camp, which is situated in Mae Surin forest reserve and Doi Wiang Lah wildlife sanctuary and is home to about 3,000 refugees.

A partial view of the burned out camp.

The camp is one of nine refugee camps on the Thai-Myanmar border set up more than two decades ago to offer asylum to ethnic Karen fleeing the fighting between the Myanmar army and rebel troops.

Witnesses told police that they saw embers being blown by the wind land on the thatched roof of a refugee house, sparking a fire which quickly spread to other houses.

However, officials from the RFD and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, which oversee forest land in Khum Yuam district, believe the fire started inside the camp.

Mae Hong Son governor Naruemon Palawat said Sunday she had directed Khum Yuam police to investigate the cause of the fire.

She said while a forest fire had not been ruled out, police believed the blaze may have been caused by people cooking. Arson has been ruled out.

Bodies of the dead are laid out before burial.

The fire broke out in Zone 1 and Zone 4 of the camp about 4pm and was brought under control about 6pm.

Authorities Sunday stopped searching for bodies, with the official death toll at 37 with 115 injured.

The 37 dead victims comprise 21 males and 16 females. Ten of the dead were children. Nineteen of the injured refugees were seriously hurt.

A Christian burial rite was held for the victims Sunday.

More than 400 makeshift houses at the Mae Surin camp were ruined, leaving more than 2,300 refugees homeless.

A big reason for rebuilding the camp on the same site is its easy access to water.

Governor Naruemon said the refugees' houses will be rebuilt on their original location because a stream flows through the area year-round.

The refugees themselves also had no desire to move, she said. Construction of the houses is expected to be completed in a month.

Humanitarian assistance from the state and private sectors continues to pour in for the refugees, with officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees preparing food.

refugee – someone who leaves their country or living place, especially during a war or other threatening event ผู้ลี้ภัย
inferno – a very large dangerous fire เพลิงไหม้ครั้งใหญ่
blaze – a large fire that cause a lot of damage เพลิง
row – a serious disagreement about an issue การทะเลาะวิวาท
dismiss – to refuse to accept that something might be true or important ไม่สนใจ,แย้งกลับ
claim – saying that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it ข้ออ้าง ข้อกล่าวหา
insist – to keep saying very firmly that something is true ยืนกราน ยืนยัน
deputy – a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation รอง
injured – hurt in an accident or attack ซึ่งได้รับบาดเจ็บ
situated – located ตั้งอยู่ที่
forest reserve – a forest area that is set aside for animals, trees and plants ป่าสงวน
wildlife sanctuary – a place where birds or animals can live and be protected, especially from hunters or dangerous conditions เขตสงวนพันธุ์สัตว์ป่า
partial – in part, but not complete บางส่วน
border – the official line separating two areas, regions or countries  เขตแดน อาณาเขต
decade – a period of ten years  ทศวรรษ
asylum – the right to stay in a country, given by a government to protect someone who has escaped from war or political trouble in their own country การลี้ภัย
ethnic – of a group of people with the same culture or traditions กลุ่มชาติพันธุ์
flee – to leave a place or person quickly because you are afraid of possible danger หนี อพยพ
rebel – of people who try to remove a government or leader by force ผู้ก่อกบฏ
troops – soldiers, especially in large numbers กองทหาร
witness – a person who sees something happen  ผู้ที่เห็นเหตุการณ์
ember – a piece of wood that is still hot and red from a fire  ถ่านที่ยังคุอยู่
thatch – dried straw, reeds, etc. used for making a roof; a roof made of this material  หลังคาใบจาก
spark – to make something happen ก่อให้เกิด
spread – to gradually affect or cover a larger area แพร่กระจาย
conservation – the protection of plants and animals, natural areas, and interesting and important structures and buildings, especially from the damaging effects of human activity การอนุรักษ์ธรรมชาติ, การป้องกันความสูญเสีย, การสงวนไว้
oversee – to watch or organise a job or an activity to make certain that it is being done correctly คุมงาน, ควบคุม
investigate – to try to find out the facts about something in order to learn the truth about it ตรวจสอบหาความจริง
rule out – to stop considering something as a possibility ประกาศว่าเป็นสิ่งที่เป็นไปไม่ได้
arson – the illegal use of fire to destroy a house, building, or property; an arsonist is a person who commits arson การลอบวางเพลิง  
burial – the act of putting a dead body into the ground, or the ceremony connected with this การฝังศพ
authorities – people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
search – to look somewhere carefully in order to find something ค้นหา
death toll – the number of people killed ยอดผู้เสียชีวิต
comprise – to consist or be made up of two or more things ประกอบด้วย
rite – a traditional ceremony, especially a religious one พิธีกรรม (พระราชพิธี)
makeshift – using whatever is available and therefore not very good   สำหรับใช้ชั่วคราว, ใช้ประทังไปก่อน
ruined – destroyed; spoiled แหลกลาญ, ชำรุดทรุดโทรม, ปรักหักพัง
site – a place where something is located  สถานที่
access – having the opportunity to have or use something มีโอกาสในการใช้
original – existing at the beginning of a particular period, process or activity  ซึ่งเป็นแบบฉบับ, ต้นกำเนิด
location – where someone or something is ที่ตั้ง,ทำเล
stream – a small narrow river ลำธาร, ธารน้ำ, สายน้ำ
desire – to have a strong wish to have or do something อยาก, ประสงค์, ต้องการ
construction – the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
humanitarian – relating to efforts to help people who are living in very bad conditions and are suffering because of a war, flood, earthquake etc มีมนุษยธรรม
assistance – help; aid ความช่วยเหลือ
state – government รัฐบาล
private sector – businesses and industries that are not owned or controlled by the government ภาคเอกชน
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – a UN agency which helps refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself

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