Their thatched bamboo homes along the border with Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, have been raided and burned.
Their meager possessions - cooking pots, straw mats, a few items of clothing - have been destroyed or stolen.There is little work for the refugees from Myanmar, and even less hope for the ethnic hill tribe people, the Karen, among them.
More than 20 refugee camps along the border are home to 100,000 Karen and other ethnic minorities who have fled repression in their homeland, which is also known as Burma.
At Mae Hla, the largest camp, there is little visible security by the Thai border police and a sense of frustration.
Wedged between rugged jungle peaks and a lone, pot-holed border road, Mae Hla by day is quiet. By night, it and other Karen camps are vulnerable to attack by guerrillas from across the border who support Myanmar's military government.
Smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, Taper, 87, who is partially blind, gazes through the thick smoke floating on the breeze. "What can we do?" he asks. "They come in the night. They burn our homes. They kill us."
For nearly 50 years, the Karen have taken up arms against whatever government held power in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. Their struggle for a free and autonomous homeland has taken a deadly toll and forced hundreds of thousands to flee into Thailand.
The Thai army has been out in force along the border near Mae Hla recently in an attempt to stop the cross-border raids. Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai has threatened retaliation, but little else has been done.
The refugees largely support the Karen National Union, many of whose members practice Christianity. They are now opposed by a breakaway group know as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which is reported to be backed by the Myanmar military.
The breakaway faction has staged terror attacks on refugees in Thailand in an attempt to force them back to their homes.
Thailand has long used the various ethnic rebel armies as a buffer against Myanmar, a traditional enemy. Until recently, it has refused to admit officials of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to the camps.
But with the current economic crisis in Thailand, the refugees are becoming a financial and security burden, and many refugees worry they will lose their welcome here.
On Saturday, a research group said a many as 200,000 ethnic Karen people have either been forcibly relocated or are hiding in the jungles of eastern Myanmar to escape the army.
More than 30 percent of the population in eastern Myanmar has been uprooted and displaced, the Burma Ethnic Research Group said in a report. More than 100,000 Karen and others already live in refugee camps inside Thailand, it said.
The Karen are the second-largest ethnic group in Myanmar after the Burmans and have been fighting for autonomy for nearly 50 years.
There was no immediate comment available from Myanmar's military regime.
Myanmar was known as Burma until the military government changed the country's name in 1989. The government claims it has brought peace and stability to the country by inducing more than a dozen ethnic insurgent groups to sign cease-fire agreements during the past decade.
Along with the Karen, more than 300,000 ethnic Shan people also have been persecuted, the report said.
"The civilian population in the rural areas has been subjected to a campaign of terror and displacement by the Burma army," the report said.
Human rights workers have documented gang rapes, torture, summary killings and forced labor and relocations committed against the Karen by the army.
Bo Mya, rebel leader of the armed Karen National Union, spoke to refugees along the Thai-Myanmar border Friday and said he was willing to resume talks with the government, the Bangkok Post reported Saturday.
Four previous rounds of negotiations have failed.
In the past, military officials have defended forced relocations as the quickest way to cut off support for the armed rebels.
Although the report provided maps and population tables, researchers admitted the figures were estimates because access to Karen state is not permitted by the government.