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Celebrating Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง) and Yi Peng (ยี่เป็ง) 2013

For more photos and videos from the 2013 Loi Krathong and Yi Peng celebrations, browse the #ลอยกระทง (Loi Krathong), #ยี่เป็ง (Yi Peng) and #โคมลอย (khom loi) hashtags.

On the evening of the full moon on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, people from Thailand and parts of Laos and Burma come together to celebrate the Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง) festival. Taking place during a time when rivers traditionally flood, the festival is celebrated with the construction of small, elaborately decorated floats, called krathongs, that people set loose in rivers to float away with the current. For some, the festival marks a moment to honor Buddha and a chance to let go of negative thoughts as you set your krathong afloat. For others, the krathong stands as an offering of thanks to the goddess of water, Phra Mae Khongkha (พระแม่คงคา).

The Loi Krathong celebration coincides with the Lanna holiday of Yi Peng (ยี่เป็ง) that occurs in northern Thailand. For this night, which is a time for Buddhist meditation or “merit-making,” celebrants launch thousands of paper lanterns, or khom loi (โคมลอย), into the air. The latnerns, often set off in great numbers simultaneously, create giant glowing clusters that drift through the night sky.

The city of Chiang Mai is known for its elaborate celebration of both holidays, resulting in one of Thailand’s most iconic sights: a city aglow with lanterns floating through both the water and sky.

United Nations microfinance scheme for refugees living in camps

Many refugees are displaced from their homes for years. They might live in refugee camps for decades. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners support microfinancing efforts. Through small loans, refugees are empowered to maintain businesses and trading efforts, thus building up their long-term security.

Microcredit: Bhutanese refugee women participate in a microcredit scheme, which offers loans to start small businesses. / Timai camp, eastern Nepal / UNHCR / J. Pagonis / July 2005. (UNHCR, Flickr)

Refugees from Burma (Myanmar) at Nu Po Refugee Camp in Thailand. (UNHCR, Flickr)

The UNHCR writes:

The difficulty of finding access to legitimate, non-exploitative sources of income is one of the most serious obstacles faced by refugees and displaced people. However, refugees and displaced people should not to be treated as passive recipients of humanitarian assistance. With the right tools and opportunities, they have the skills and resources to contribute to their own development. People with an entrepreneurial spirit can create employment for themselves and for others…

Microfinance is another way in which humanitarian agencies can provide direct assistance for income generating activities in the short–term. Since microfinance aims at both a short–term and a long–term impact, it offers a suitable field for the cooperation between humanitarian and development organizations.

Sources: UNHCR Life in a Refugee Camp on Flickr. Cross-posted from my blog at Sociology at Work.