Photos from a trip to Umpiem Mai refugee camp


Senior Member
Jan 15, 2011
I recently had the good to fortune to be able to make a visit to this refugee camp on the mae sot-umphang highway 1090. I was there accompanying my sister as she interviewed some people within the camp, I was able to take a few snaps as we made our way around the camp.

Here is a brief summary and information about the camp itself.

Umpiem Mai

Umpiem Mai has the highest elevation of all the camps along the border with an altitude over 1100 metres.

Location: Phop Phra District, Tak Province
Distance from Border: About 10 kms
Distance from Mae Sot: 87 kms / approx. 1½ hours driving time
Area : 493 rai (788,800 m2)
Accessibility: Car – good, all-year-round access

The former Wangka and Mawker camps were relocated to Phop Phra district in mid to late 1999. The camps were relocated due to security concerns as Burmese forces had repeatedly attacked both camps (in March 1998, Wangka camp was 80% burnt to the ground and 4 people killed, the camp had also been attacked in 1997 and 1996). The decision to locate the new camp near a Hmong village called Umpiem Mai was made by the Thai authorities; UNHCR was brought in to draw up a camp plan. The relocation took approximately 6 months to complete.

Umpiem Mai was initially a harsh environment with little tree cover, torrential rain and a cold climate. The camp is situated on very hilly terrain and there was a significant danger from soil erosion particularly during the rainy season. It was probably due to these factors that some people preferred not to make the move.

Over the first year, the camp saw some significant programmes initiated to ensure the integrity of the environment and to help promote a more pleasant living area. COERR and UNHCR surveyed the area and developed tree-planting programmes along with soil erosion projects. Water supply provided by ARC is available in all sections of the camp, however as new arrivals build houses higher up the slopes their availability to piped water is compromised. Nonetheless, the water supply for the camp is so far sufficient even during the hot season.

In January 2001, medical services, which were originally provided by MSF, were handed over to two other medical NGOs, ARC and AMI. ARC is responsible for preventative care such as health education and sanitation while AMI took over the curative medical care, which mainly involves the managing of the camp hospital.

TBBC Feeding Population: 15,207 (August 2008)

Breakdown by Age <5 Yrs 5-17 Yrs 18-59 Yrs >59 Yrs
13% 33% 51% 3%
Breakdown by Gender Female Male
50% 50%
Breakdown by Ethnicity Karen Burman Mon Other
90% 5% 2% 1%

Resettlement (Source: IOM)
In 2005, RTG gave approval for resettlement opportunities to be offered to camp residents. Statistics for resettlement by camp is available since 2006. As of July 2008, 5,306 people have departed from Umpiem Mai since 2006.

Non-Governmental Organisations/UN Agencies


Food, shelter and non food items
Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC)

Health and sanitation services
Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI)
American Refugee Committee (ARC)

Reproductive health
Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT)

Primary and Secondary Education
World Education / Consortium (WE/C)
ZOA Refugee Care

Nursery schools
Taipei Overseas Peace Service (TOPS)

Special education
World Education / Consortium (WE/C)

Mine risk education
Handicap International (HI)

Social services
Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR)
Taipei Overseas Peace Service (TOPS)

Handicap International (HI)

Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA)

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)



Senior member
Jan 11, 2011
Chiang Mai, Thailand
2007 KTM 990 Adventure Suzuki DRZ 400
Re: Photographic trip to Umpiem Mai refugee camp

Great picher Sarge. What's behind him giving the brightness of the background? Is it a white wall with the sun shining on it?

Very interesting I wonder if they'll try and burn these camps down too.


Senior Member
Jan 15, 2011
Thanks LR and KTMphil. I must confess my interest in refugee camps prior to this visit was minimal, however having now been there one cannot help be touched by these peoples plight and the harrowing stories they have of persecution and genocide in their own country. When my sister finishes writing up her interviews I will post a link on this thread so we might understand there situation further...

Mark Rossi

Senior Member
Jan 15, 2011
Great post Luke, and tell Mel I found the story of Soe Lwin compelling reading. The atrocities committed are unimaginable.
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