Orientation
Mae Ra Ma Luang is also known as Mae Ra Moe or Mae Ra Mu in Karen language.

Location: Sob Moei District, Mae Hong Son Province
Distance from Border: 4 kms in a straight line, 6 kms down the Yuam river
Distance from Mae Sariang: Mae Sam Laep, 90 kms/ 4 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 downstream approx. 1½ hrs (or Mae Ngao with 5 hr walk).
Phone: No mobile phone coverage. However, phone coverage is available in a nearby village approx. 30 mins away.
Note: Due to its isolated location, arrangements can be made for visitors to sleep overnight in the camp.
Camp Geography: Area 1,600 rai (256 ha)
TBC Feeding Population: 15,750 (March 2012)

99.76%
Breakdown by Age
<5 Yrs
5-17 Yrs
Adult
13.5%
37.4%
49.1%
Breakdown by Gender
Female
Male
50%
50%
Breakdown by Ethnicity
Karen
Burman
Other
0.14%
0.10%

History
Mae Ra Ma Luang lies opposite Manerplaw – the old headquarters of the Karen resistance, and home to many of the pro-democracy groups that fled crackdowns following the demonstrations throughout Burma in 1988. This area has since been occupied by Burma Army and DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) troops, but renewed fighting and military operations in this specific part of the borderlands has erupted again following the 2010 elections.

Mae Ra Ma Luang was first set up in February 1995, following the fall of Manerplaw. Initially, a large number of the people living in areas around Manerplaw fled to Mae To Lah village on the Thai side. Upon agreement with Thai authorities and local landowners, they were soon allowed to relocate to the present site. People from Mae Po Hta camp, which was also deserted following the Burma Army’s capture of the area were initially relocated to Huai Haeng, but gradually moved to the present site by November 1995.

In March 1995, Section 1 of the camp was attacked by Burma Army and DKBA troops. During this attack several houses and 1 rice warehouse was burned down, and 1 refugee shot dead. However since then there have been no direct or indirect attacks on this camp.

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The initial population of Mae Ra Ma Luang was about 4,500+. However, in February/March 1998 during the consolidation of the Salween camps to the north, there was a further influx of about 2-3,000 refugees who did not want to relocate to the consolidation camps of Ban Sala and Mae Khong Kha (now known as Mae La Oon). The camp extended southwards to accommodate these new residents to where the Mae Ra Ma Luang river flows into the larger Yuam river. This new part of the camp became Section 7, and actually straddles the provincial boundary between Mae Hong Son and Tak provinces.

Since then, the population has steadily increased due to more new arrivals. However, this increase rapidly increased from the end of 2005 and during 2006 and has continued growing at a rapid rate since. This has been in most part to renewed offensives from the SPDC. Such prolonged offensives seriously threaten lives and food security, whereby many IDPs can no longer find adequate coping strategies.

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. Hydro electricity is widely generated in the camp, mainly to recharge vehicle batteries to power household lighting.

                                                                                                      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, 5,892 people have departed from Mae Ra Ma Luang, with the majority resettling in the USA and Australia.

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  Map : Courtesy of The Border Consortium