The Karen Refugee Committee held a youth forum this week, brining together dozens of participants from seven refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border.
Naw Blooming Night Zan, one of the forum organizers, told KIC that there is currently little to no youth programing in the camps, so the forum was meant to inspire the younger residents to discuss activities that they might want to lead.
The three-day forum from February 21 to 23 was held at the Mae La camp, and included 54 youth attendees. Four topics were discussed: youth and leadership, basic health, youth and media and youth and civil society.
The Karen Refugee Committee partnered with 10 other local organizations to put together the forum.
“As there are currently no particular programs for the youth, by convening this forum they got to know each other, and realized what they might want to do together,” said Naw Blooming Night Zan.
As NGOs are increasingly channel funding away from the camps and into other projects, including now within Myanmar, camp organizers say there are fewer and fewer opportunities for the youth population in the camps.
Naw San San New, a forum attendee from the Umpiem refugee camp, told KIC, “ By participating in such a forum, youth can develop friendships and realize how to build cooperation with and organize the youth.”
As of 2014, the nine official refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border hosted over 75,460 registered refugees, according to the UN refugee agency. The Thai Border Consortium notes a higher figure of around 120,000, which may include non-registered camp residents. Since 2005, some 96,000 camp residents have been resettled into third countries, the majority going to the United States.