Orientation
Location: Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son Province
Distance from Border: 2 kms in a straight line, 3 kms down the Yuam river
Distance from Mae Sariang: - Sob Moei, approx. 75 kms/ 2½ hours driving time in normal conditions
- Mae Sam Laep, 90 kms/ 3½ hours driving time in normal conditions
Accessibility: Car: all-year-round access; 4WD + chains required in the rainy season
Boat: access from Mae Saam Laep (or Mae Ngao with 5 hour walk)
Phone: no mobile phone coverage. Mobile phone coverage is available in a nearby village approx. 20 mins away.
Note: Due to its isolated location, arrangements can be made for visitors to sleep overnight in the camp
Camp Geography: Area 800 rai (320 ha)
TBC Feeding Population: 13,759 (March 2012)

Breakdown by Age
<5 Yrs
5-17 Yrs
Adult
14.5%
34.8%
50.7%
Breakdown by Gender
Female
Male
49.57%
50.43%
Breakdown by Ethnicity
Karen
Burman
Other
99.33%
0.57%
0.1%

History
Mae La Oon is a result of a history of refugee camp consolidations in the Mae Sariang / Salween area. Originally, the area was the site of a number of smaller camps set up during 1995 when the Burma Army managed to take over the KNU headquarters at Manerplaw and extend its presence along larger stretches of the Moei and Salween rivers which was previously home to Karen villages and KNU bases. These newly-formed refugee camps included Mae Yeh Hta, U Dah, Klo Pa, Mae S’Ku, Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha.

Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha were located along the same stream – originally about 3 kms from each other – and at first had a combined population of about 4,000. As the populations increased, Ban Sala stretched upstream and Mae Khong Kha extended downstream until, in 1998, they were only separated by a 10-minute walk.

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In March 1998, the Thai authorities consolidated the other Salween camp populations into these two camps, and about 3,700 refugees moved into the sites, effectively causing the two camps to merge. This was officially recognised in September 1998 when the site was renamed as a single camp – Mae Khong Kha – and a single camp committee selected. Earlier, in June, Section 13 was created in the camp to house more than 450 Burmese students who had fled following the Burma Army’s capture of the ABSDF base at Wei Gyi. However, even after the merger, the camp was still commonly referred to by its two parts – Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha.

In September 2002, the camp experienced a devastating ‘flash flood’. Tragically, 26 refugees lost their lives in the flooding, which also resulted in major damage to camp infrastructure. Over 250 houses were completely destroyed and another 230 were severely damaged. Two high schools, eight primary schools, one nursery, four camp administration offices, five NGO offices, four reception centres and two OPD clinics were also completely destroyed. The Thai authorities co-ordinated with NGOs and the UNHCR to mount a rapid emergency relief effort, which proved to be highly effective despite having to operate in very adverse weather conditions.

Due to its isolation, the camp is off the mains electricity grid, although the camp office, and health, education and social centres in the camp do have access to power from electric generators.

                                                                                                      Courtesy of The Border Consortium

Resettlement (Source: IOM)
In 2005, RTG gave approval for resettlement opportunities to be offered to camp residents. Statistics for resettlement by camp are available since 2006. As of December 2011, 6,619 people have departed from Mae La Oon, with the majority resettling in the USA and Australia.

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  Map : Courtesy of The Border Consortium