As flooding in Thailand recedes, situation still critical for Burmese refugees and migrants
A boy is making his way home on a makeshift raft. (Photo: Peter Biro/IRC)
In the flood's wake
While Thailand’s worst flooding in half a century recedes from most of the capital, nearly a half million Burmese residents of Bangkok are still being seriously affected by the devastation left in the flood’s wake. The IRC is aiding both Burmese and Thai residents in two of the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods.
All IRC Slideshows >
All Thailand Slideshows >
Roisai Wongsuban, an IRC advocacy coordinator, demonstrates and distributes water purification tablets in Klong Luang, a flood-damaged neighborhood in western Bangkok. “Through direct contact with polluted waters, there is an increased risk of infections,” she explains. “Purifying the water is an effective way to prevent some of these problems.”
Text and Photos by Peter Biro
BANGKOK, Thailand - Floodwater, reeking of dead algae, sewage and fuel, is still engulfing the Klong Luang neighborhood in Bangkok’s western suburbs. Its residents, mostly refugees and migrant workers from neighboring Myanmar, wade through water or travel on makeshift rafts made from foam boards or empty water bottles.
“Burmese living in the heavily flood-affected and poverty-stricken parts of the city are among the most vulnerable to water-borne diseases and infections,” said Christine Petrie, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) deputy program director in Thailand.
The IRC provides healthcare and other vital services to nearly 140,000 Burmese refugees in nine refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border and works to improve access to health care and education for tens of thousands of Burmese refugees and migrants living elsewhere in Thailand.
While large numbers of Burmese are in Thailand illegally, many of those who are living in the country legally have lost their registration papers or work permits in the floods and fear arrest or deportation. The IRC is working with the Ministry of Labor to ensure that no legal action is taken against Burmese residents.
“The authorities recognize that this is a humanitarian disaster and so far they have assured us that their focus is on providing essential disaster relief services,” Petrie said.
In the coming weeks, the IRC will focus on post-flood recovery assistance and cleanup campaigns, including working to salvage property and possessions that have been under water. Meanwhile, the unemployed will need continuing support until they are able to return to work, Petrie said.
“Most people lost everything they owned in the flooding. It looks like the road to recovery will be a long one.”