damir sagjol photographs illegal karen migrants from myanmar who live at a garbage dump near the thai border town of mae sot, where they earn an average of one american dollar a day collecting plastic.
the karen people, caught in the world’s longest running civil war, have been subjected to extortion, torture and forced labour by the burmese army. their villages burnt to the ground, the karen have been forced to flee to neighbouring thailand.
more than 150,000 karen refugees now live, many of them for over twenty years, in one of nine official thai border camps administered by UNHCR. sanitation, clean water, proper nutrition, education and employment are basically non existent in the camps. about 200,000 others, such as those in the photos, live in “illegal” unofficial camps, where conditions can be worse.
despite myanmar’s recent nascent steps towards democracy, the plight of the karen has not much improved. though talks of peace and repatriation are ongoing, burmese troops continue to attack the refugee camps, burning what they can and killing residents at random. most karen are afraid to return home.