Friday, November 12, 2010

Church center shelters Myanmar refugees

By Vorapoj Singha, Bangkok ( UCANEWS )
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Mae La refugee camp in Thailand, home to around 50,000 refugees from Myanmar

More than 200 Myanmar refugees escaping post-election clashes have taken refuge in a Church-run children’s learning center across the border in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand.

“Our learning center has become a temporary shelter to keep some of them safe. The Myanmar people who walked to our center were starving and exhausted,” said Brother Victor Gil Munoz, director of the La Salle Learning Center, which educates mostly stateless children living in the border area.

Fighting broke out on Nov. 8 between Myanmar troops and rebels belonging to the Karen ethnic minority, a day after the military-run country’s first elections in nearly two decades.

By Nov. 10, however, the estimated 20,000 refugees who fled Myawaddy, opposite the Thai town of Mae Sot, have gone back, after Myanmar military reportedly took control of the area.

The situation in Sangkhlaburi, however, “remained tense as fighting continued, forcing several thousand refugees to flee to Thailand,” said Brother Munoz.

According to him, most of the people who have fled were women, children and the elderly.

Thai authorities have declared the area around Sangkhlaburi a war zone as some rocket-propelled grenades landed on the Thai side of the border.

The Catholic bishops’ National Catholic Commission on Migration (NCCM) has sent relief goods to the La Salle Learning Center, said NCCM coordinator Somsak Sae-ung.

He added that NCCM and the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees will “provide Myanmar civilians with humanitarian assistance until the situation on the other side of the border returns to normal.”