Umpium Mai refugee camp is situated in the mountains about a 1.5-hour drive from the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand. It was built there about 10 years ago, amalgamating two other camps. These two camps were too close to the border and were attacked and burned down by soldiers from the Burmese regime. Even though Umpium Mai is crowded, with about 20,000 people living in a small space on the mountain, people feel safe there.
Camp residents receive monthly rations provided by a group of non-governmental organizations known as the Thai-Burma Border Consortium (TBBC). The standard group of rations consists of rice, charcoal, cooking oil, yellow bean and fortified flour.
There are seven schools in Umpium Mai camp. The schools are organized by a local education group known as the Karen Education Department (KED) and supported by a variety of international non-governmental organizations such as ZOA Refugee Care from the Netherlands and World Education from the United States.
As it is located in the mountains, the temperature in Umpium Mai is often cooler than in the surrounding areas and in the rest of Thailand. In the cold season, from November to January, children wear winter jackets and sleep under at least two blankets to stay warm. Because all of the houses in camp are built from bamboo, the mist comes into people’s homes at night, making it important to stay warm.