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Homophobia rife in refugee camps in Thailand, Burmese migrants say

Burmese migrants speak of persecution of LGBT residents in camps in Thai refugee camps
A family look through the fence at Mae La refugee camp on the Burma-Thailand border

A Burmese migrant has spoken out about the homophobia he faced while living in a refugee camp in Thailand.

Writing for Thompson Reuters, Moses describes hearing anti-gay sermons from Christian preachers in Mae La camp close to the Burma-Thalland border. And it wasn't just the Christians.

'The families of my Buddhist [LGBTI] friends wouldn’t accept them, saying they’d soiled the family name and race,' wrote Moses. 'The Muslims are very prejudiced too. They wouldn’t allow gays to attend the mosque.'

Moses said that he got verbally abused everyday when he lived at the camp and sometimes people would grab him and take his clothes off in the middle of the road.

'You would think the people around would take pity and help,' said Moses. 'No way. They’d support these bullies, saying it’s only if they keep doing things like this that we’d be shamed into changing our sexual orientation.'

Moses now lives outside the camp because he is studying. 'I will have to go back to the camp after I graduate in November as my student card will expire and I can no longer stay in Mae Sot town,' he said. 'I don't feel good about going back.'

Burmese LGBT rights activist living in Thailand, Myo Min, confirmed to Gay Star News that LGBT people are persecuted at the refugee camps.

'We have been working for better protection with the UNHCR [UN High Commission for Refugees, who run the refugee camps] and camp authorities,' said Min. 'We call for more security but still many threats are going on.'

Min said that the Christian preachers influence the youth, and so does homophobic American gangster culture.

Recently a shop owned by a lesbian woman was destroyed overnight, with a letter filled with gay hate saying the people who did it would come back and rape the woman and her sister.

The two women left Mae La to stay at another camp, Mae Sot, for security.

Thailand hosts nearly 150,000 Burmese refugees in camps along the border between the two countries.

Since the political situation is improving in Burma, the Thai government are now taking steps to repatriate the refugees.

'We heard repatriation to Myanmar is going to start soon too,' said Moses.

'I can’t even imagine what my future is going to be. All I want is to carry on with my studies and live in a place that recognizes me as a full human being, regardless of my sexual orientation.' 

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