Rangers guarding Mae La refugee camp following riot

Rangers guarding Mae La refugee camp following riot

Karen refugees at Mae La in Tak’s Tha Song Yang district hold a traditional ceremony sending best wishes to thousands of refugees displaced by internal conflict in Myanmar in 2017. (File photo: Assawin Pinitwong)
Karen refugees at Mae La in Tak’s Tha Song Yang district hold a traditional ceremony sending best wishes to thousands of refugees displaced by internal conflict in Myanmar in 2017. (File photo: Assawin Pinitwong)

TAK: Para-military rangers and administrative officials were deployed to Mae La refugee camp in Thung Song Yang district after a riot there on Tuesday night caused considerable damage.

It was not clear what sparked the riot, which began about 7.30pm.

One report said it began after four Myanmar refugees entered the camp on two motorcycles without wearing face masks.

Defence volunteers assigned to the camp reprimanded them and seized the motorcycles, the report said.

The refugees asked for the return of their motorbikes, but were refused. They began an angry protest and called on other refugees to join them. Many came out to join them and the number swelled to hundreds, according to the report.

The mob began rioting, setting fire to property, including 13 guard kiosks, houses, cars and motorcycles belonging to camp officials.

Another report said the four refugees were detained and assaulted by the camp officials when they returned to the camp, fuelling anger and dissatisfaction in the camp. 

The protesters agreed to end the riot and returned to their residences after deputy provincial governor Somchai Kitcharoenrungroj arrived and calmed them down.

Para-military rangers from the 35th Ranger Regiment were deployed around the camp to maintain law and order on Wednesday morning.

Officials planned talks with the refugees later in the day.

There are many camps holding war refugees from neighbouring Myanmar along the border. Mae La refugee camp was established in 1984 and is said to be the largest, currently with about 40,000 residents. 

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