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Suicide Rates on Rise among Myanmar Refugees in Thailand’s Biggest Camp, says UN Study

Collaborative efforts between nongovernmental groups and government agencies could help identify the cause and ways to prevent suicides

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Refugees shop for food in a market inside Mae La camp in Tak province, northwestern Thailand, June 2, 2012. Benarnews/RFA
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  • The study found that only one person committed suicide in Mae La camp in 2014, but the number escalated to 14 each year in 2015 and 2016
  • During the same three-year period, 96 people attempted to kill themselves at the camp, the study said
  • Family conflicts, financial situations, alcohol and drug abuse and depression could have contributed to the rising figures

Myanmar, July 1, 2017: Suicide among Myanmar refugees in Thailand’s biggest camp increased at an alarming rate during the past two years, according to a study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The study, which was released on Monday – the eve of World Refugee Day – found that only one person committed suicide in Mae La camp in 2014, but the number escalated to 14 each year in 2015 and 2016.

During the same three-year period, 96 people attempted to kill themselves at the camp, the study said.

“The trend is increasing in the past couple of years,” said Dana Graber Ladek, chief of IOM mission in Bangkok. “This actually needs more services, such as by counselors and psychiatrists in the camps, to prevent suicide.”

Mae La camp in Thasongyang district of Tak province, about 500 km (312 miles) north of Bangkok, harbors about 40,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Karen from eastern Myanmar. It is the largest of nine refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, where about 100,000 people resettled after the Myanmar military regime launched offensives against ethnic rebel forces during the 1980s.

Ladek said collaborative efforts between nongovernmental groups and government agencies could help identify the cause and ways to prevent suicides.

“The Interior Ministry of Thailand takes this refugee situation very seriously, and it’s not a situation that one agency can address,” Ladek told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. He added that the effort would require a collaborative approach on many different levels.

The study said no conclusive cause for the surge in suicides had been established. But, it said, family conflicts, financial situations, alcohol and drug abuse and depression could have contributed to the rising figures.

Middle-age people, mostly those who have spent their entire lives in the camp, were statistically at higher risk of suicide, the study said. It said the most common methods used were hanging and drinking herbicides which are easily available because many refugees work on farmlands.

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Government officials respond

Officials of a Thai government agency that manages the camp said they were aware of the suicides. They responded by fielding psychiatrists who provided counseling to vulnerable individuals and set up checkpoints to stop drug trafficking into the camp.

“We have our representatives staying with refugees in the camp who observe and are ready to talk with them 24/7,” Kwanruen Srichan, director of Border and Refugee Affairs Section, told BenarNews during a phone interview.

“We are expecting that attempted and completed suicides would decline,” she said.

Thailand began hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1970s. More recently, Thailand has received populations threatened by armed conflict and ethnic persecution in Myanmar, according to Amnesty International (AI).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said more than 80,000 Myanmar refugees in Thailand had resettled in other countries since 2005. It said tens of thousands had returned to Myanmar after the new democratically elected government announced its commitment to voluntary refugee repatriation.

But the 100,000 refugees remaining in nine camps are facing reduced funding, decreased resettlement opportunity and poorer services, officials said.

“This is very complex,” Ladek said. “All the reasons are contributing” to the problem.

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, but officials said the country has been committed to providing the humanitarian needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

In addition to the 100,000 people living in refugee camps, AI said there were about 8,000 asylum seekers from more than 50 countries in Thailand.

Another 330 UNHCR-registered refugees and asylum seekers are being held in immigration detention centers in difficult living conditions and many have been forcibly repatriated.

On Tuesday, AI said that despite Thailand’s role in hosting and supporting large refugee populations, the nation had failed to consistently protect their rights.

“Refugees and asylum seekers in Thailand are not afforded any legal status under Thai law and remain extremely vulnerable to arrest, detention, forcible deportation and exploitation,” AI said in a statement.

-Benarnews/RFA

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Make Women’s Day Special With These Gifts

If you are looking for some excellent ideas to make the women of your life extremely special, here are some

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This is the special day when each person must reflect on how valuable the various women in one's life are. Pixabay

A very special day earmarked by the United Nations to celebrate the womanhood, appreciate all the women achievers, the entire progress made by women in every field and of course, bring in a sense of closeness amidst women from all across the world, the International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th. It is a very special day.

This is the special day when each person must reflect on how valuable the various women in one’s life are. It is that particular day where women must set targets for themselves and reflect on their achievement in the past.

Regardless the gender, everyone should celebrate this special day. It’s not really necessary to make the celebration highly extravagant, rather it could be as simple as making a good meal for the lady of your life or penning down all the thoughts about what the lady of your life means to you.

If you are looking for some excellent ideas to make the women of your life extremely special, here are some-

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women's day
What could be a better gift for the woman of your life than gifting her a bunch of exotic fresh red Roses?

Give Her A Nice Floral Gifts:

Roses resemble the color of love and admiration and gifting the important women with red Roses show your heartfelt love and respect for them. If you want to make the floral gift more personalized, accompany the roses with the personally written note highlighting about the things you admire about the lady and you would definitely see her glow with the complete happiness on her face.

women's day
Making a meal for the special woman is always a heart touching gesture.

Make A Nice Brunch For Her:

Mornings are definitely the challenging time for most of the women and they take all the responsibilities of cooking, organizing the meals etc and all they do without letting anyone even know about it. How about let her sleep for longer on this special day? You can prepare the entire breakfast and lunch for your woman and give it as a nice surprise to her.

women's day
These days you can easily order the cakes online from the comfort of your home.

Order A Very Delicious Women‘s Day Special Cake:

Any occasion is incomplete without a cake cutting ceremony and the celebration of Women’s day is also not an exception to it. You must make it really memorable with a nice cake cutting celebration. You can easily buy Happy Women’s Day cake from any online store and make a cake cutting ceremony to honor all the achievements of the woman of your life. Most the popular online stores offer some of the excellent discount deals and availing such discount deals could be a great way to save some good amount of cash.

ALSO READ: International Women’s Day: Eight actionable areas for women’s empowerment

Gift Her Something Nice For Her Professional Life:

She is the working woman and she spends a significant amount of time in office so gifting her something related to her regular job will be a nice idea. How about gifting your woman a vintage looking pen or a well-designed notebook for keeping all the tabs of her regular works? She will definitely appreciate these types of gift items.

women's day
Is she a gardening enthusiast?

A Potted Plant:

Does she spend a good amount of time for a gardening purpose on a regular basis? If the answer is yes, buying a potted plant could be an excellent Women’s Day gift idea for her. You can actually expect to see her smiling all day long and every time she waters the plant, she will be remembering you.