Skip to main content

Karen State, Burma: Thailand Image Analysis

Executive Summary
Papun District Image Analysis
Toungoo District Image Analysis
Dooplaya District Image Analysis
Shan State Image Analysis
Shwegyin District Image Analysis
Myawadi District Image Analysis
>Thailand Image Analysis

In addition to looking at areas in Burma that experienced human rights violations, AAAS SHR examined the expansion of refugee camps in Thailand near the Burmese border in 2006 and again in 2009. As of 2006, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) estimated that 154,000 refugees had crossed the border into Thailand. Nine camps had been established along the border extending from Karenni State in the north to Tenasserim Division in the South from 1996 to 2006. AAAS SHR obtained imagery of one particular camp - Mae La Oon, adjacent to Karen State in Thailand's Mae Hong Son province - that was built in 2004 and was home to 15,345 refugees in March 2006.

Map of Thailand-Burma Border


Imagery covering the area of Mae La Oon was acquired from GeoEye dating to 14-Nov-2002. This imagery was compared with a high-resolution QuickBird image from 2005. The comparison of images between 2002 and 2005 showed a dramatic build-up of the refugee camp. As seen below, hundreds of structures ranging in size and cluster density are built along the slopes leading up from the river. a tributary of the lower Salween River.

Mae La Oon Refugee Camp: Changes between 2002 and 2005


The images above depict the Mae La Oon refugee camp in Thailand, transitioning from a few structures in 2002 to hundreds in 2005. Top image, 4 November 2002, GeoEye. Bottom image, 07 February 2005, DigitalGlobe. (Lat: 17.79 N Long: 97.78 E)

Due to the potential for the creation of new refugees by the ongoing humanitarian situation in Burma, AAAS SHR decided to revisit Mae La Oon in 2009 in an attempt to gauge whether any further expansion had taken place. As illustrated below, the results of this effort were mixed, with a moderate contraction of the camp's central region largely offset by substantial new construction in its western areas. The southeastern sector of the camp, once densely populated, appears to have been completely abandoned, though this too is more than compensated for by growth elsewhere. Overall, the area of the camp appears to have increased by approximately 2.5% - a far less dramatic expansion than that which was observed between 2002 and 2005, but which may nevertheless indicate a slow but steady influx of new inhabitants from across the border.

Mae La Oon Refugee Camp: Changes between 2005 and 2009


The above images depict the evolution of Mae La Oon refugee camp, Thailand (outlined in red) over the span of approximately four years. Although substantial shifts in the placement of dwellings and shelters has taken place, the total area of the camp has increased only marginally in the intervening years. Top image, 07 February 2005, DigitalGlobe. Bottom image, 14 January 2009, DigitalGlobe. (Lat: 17.79, Lon: 97.78)