Chiang Kham some history - refugees


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
In the mid-late 70s as the communists gained control of Laos, thousands of people on the anti-communist side were forced to flee Laos for their safety.
Refugee camps sprung up along the Thai- Lao border, then when the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Cambodian government another massive flood of refugees & camps came for years.
The main Lao refugee camps were
Ban Vinai out of Pak Chom in Loei. 1975 until 1992.
Nam Yao out of Santisuk in Nan.
Chiang Kham in amphur Phu Sang, Phayao.

As they phased out the Lao camps, the last one to go was the one at Chiang Kham.
I've often wondered exactly where it had been & after a late-night tip off at a GTR dinner in Chiang Kham, I got the info I was after.
"Opposite the DLT Land Transport office @ Phu Sang on R4010."
There's nothing to see there now, & opposite the DLT were a couple of farmers drying out their rice.
I approached them & asked if this had been the spot.
No, not here but further up the road at the amphur office.
Another 2 kms up the road is the amphur office & the Phu Sang police station.
The police station was the easiest option to ask, because there were a couple of cops outside at the front.
It took a while for them to understand what I was looking for, something that no longer existed!
But eventually the pennies dropped & the old cop knew what I was talking about & the young guy, knew nothing about it - before his time. Yet 20,000 people had lived here, detained in a refugee camp.
And the location, yep, basically right behind the police station there in what is now a rubber plantation.

I took a few snaps of the amphur / police station grounds for "posterity," been there done that, but there's nothing to see anymore. Zero trace of any old refugee camp.



The camp was set up in 1976 & at its peak had over 20,000 inhabitants.
Some images I was able to source from of the web.

Some images by Jack Dunford at the camp dated February 1985.








At the end of February 1991, there were 6,549 women and 7,882 children aged 9 and under in the camp, accounting for more than two thirds of the total camp population of 21,024.


The google maps view today.

The police seemed to indicate that towards the end they closed this one & moved it up the road by the hospital for a bit & then it was all shut down?

Note: Wat Tham Krabok out of Saraburi, from the late 70s - 2004/ 2005, hosted Hmong refugees too, & they once peaked at 15,000 Hmong!
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