Thailand: Concern Over Rising Suicide Rate In Camp For Refugees From Burma

The number of recorded suicides and attempted suicides has soared at the Mae La refugee camp in Tak province, Thailand’s largest camp for refugees from Myanmar.

The International Organisation for Migration on June 19 called for urgent action to treat high levels of distress.

Twenty-eight refugees in Mae La camp have killed themselves and 66 have attempted suicide in the last two years, more than three times the global suicide rate, according to an IOM study published to mark World Refugee Day on June 20.

The Mae La camp, established in 1984, holds an estimated 50,000 people. It is the largest of nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border maintained by Thai authorities.

“The number of suicides is very alarming, and we urgently need to address this,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported Harry Smith, IOM’s project officer in Thailand, as saying.

“There is a high level of distress in the camps which results from myriad reasons including lack of freedom of movement, uncertainty about the future, economic hardship and a lack of educational opportunities.”

There were 14 suicides in Mae La in the last year compared to one in the period June 2014 to May 2015. But the IOM said the jump could be due to a change in data collection.

Men under 50 were most at risk, but one child had also taken his life and three had tried to.

Nearly four in 10 deaths were from drinking weed-killer, which is widely available in the camps where residents grow food.

Family problems were a factor in nearly half of suicides. Alcohol and substance abuse played a role in more than a third.


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UCA News reports about the Catholic Church and subjects of interest to the Church in Asia. Through a daily service, UCA News covers lay activities, social work, protests, conflicts and stories on the faith lives of the millions of Catholics in Asia.

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