Camp to be rebuilt, death toll at 37

Thailand will not relocate a northern refugee camp to a new site after Friday's inferno which tore through fragile wooden shelters and killed 37 people.

A refugee holds her new born baby as she stands in a temporary shelter made of bamboo at the Mae Surin camp in Khun Yuam district, Mae Hong Son, on Sunday. (AFP Photo)

Mae Hong Son Governor Naruemon Palawat said the Ban Mae Surin camp will be reconstructed at the same place as the Karen refugees had shown no desire to move elsewhere.

The governor has not set a timeline for the reconstruction of the camp in Khun Yuam district, Mae Hong Son.

Fire gutted the camp, which shelters about 3,000 Karen, on Friday, leaving 37 refugees dead and 2,300 more homeless. The blaze ravaged two areas inside the camp.

The search for victims ended on Sunday and authorities concluded that 21 men and 16 women had been killed. 

But forensic officials led by assistant police chief Pol Lt Gen Jarumporn Suramanee were still collecting evidence alongside district police to try to shed light on the tragedy.

Mrs Naruemon said investigators could not confirm that a forest fire had led to the inferno and she was sceptical about speculation that the fire was intentionally set to raze the camp, one of nine along the Thai border with Myanmar.

A makeshift food and water storage centre has been set up at the Khun Yuam Municipality Office in the district township and food and other supplies were being airlifted by helicopter to the refugees.

Other relief agencies including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees joined in the effort to help the Karen at the camp site.

The refugees were moved out of the camp to a temporary shelter near the site as the law prevents them from moving further from the border.

Pol Lt Col Decha Phaohom, an investigator with Khun Yuam district police station, said on Saturday that witnesses saw embers being blown by the wind land on the roof of a refugee house which caught fire and quickly spread to other houses.

Investigators believed the blaze may have been caused by a forest fire, not sparked by people cooking as previously reported, he said.

The blaze destroyed about 100 huts, mostly made of bamboo and with dried grass roofs, living quarters for defence volunteers, a school, a medical clinic and two warehouses for storing food.

The camp was set up more than 20 years ago and is located about 90km west of Mae Hong Son.

Related search: mae surin camp, karen, myanmar, mae hong son, death toll, rebuilt

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