MAE LA, 15 January 2009 (IRIN) – Mae La camp, the largest of nine for Burmese refugees on the Thai border, resembles a small thatched city, now more than a decade old, with a population of 50,000 registered and non-registered residents, according to camp officials and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Mae La suffers from a significant degree of sexual violence and domestic abuse, aggravated by frustration born of the inability to return to Myanmar, live and work openly in Thai society, or resettle in other countries, according to aid workers.
A Sexual and Gender Based Violence Committee (SGBV) was established in the camp in 2003 with support from UNHCR.
“For a long time, we had been informally helping people in the camp who had been abused,” Myint Aye, committee chairwoman, told IRIN. Now it has 15 members, five of them men, and two interns.
While most of the camp residents identify themselves as ethnic Karen, many are Christian, Catholic, Muslim and Buddhist, said Soe Win, a Muslim member of SGBV. “I wanted to work with the committee as I was witnessing so much violence and abuse in the Muslim community and wanted to help,” he said. continue http://www.IRINnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=82372