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Statement on the Current Reforms in Burma

By Mae Tao Clinic  •  May 22, 2012

Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) is cautiously optimistic about the positive developments made by the Burmese government in the past year. While the political reforms and tentative ceasefire agreements bring a degree of hope, the chronic humanitarian crisis facing the ethnic displaced and rural populations has yet to be addressed. MTC urges that assistance to the border regions must continue until there are signs of real change.

No Signs of Change at Border Level

For MTC, we look forward to the day that our caseload begins to decline as the facilities at the nearby Burmese government run hospital in Myawaddy improve. Currently MTC caseload has increased consistently every year; between 2010 and 2011 there was still a 5% increase bringing our caseload up to 117,000. In 2011, 3,000 babies were delivered at MTC, with only 1,200 born at Myawaddy Hospital. It will take time to strengthen the healthcare system and infrastructure, so that everyone can access affordable and quality health care services. However, increased caseloads at Myawaddy hospital and a reduction of cases at MTC and at the Thai government hospitals on the border would be a reasonable indicator of real change.

Another sign of change would be a decrease in the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border to seek protection and education in Thailand. Between 2010 and 2011, MTC saw a 30% increase in the number of unaccompanied children supported by us, bringing the total to almost 3,000. The majority of these children have been sent to Thailand to escape the effects of conflict and the risk of being recruited as child soldiers and labourers. Other push factors include a lack of education opportunities beyond grade 4 and a lack of means to pay for the cost of education fees in Burma. MTC hopes to see a shift in the border areas, with landmine clearances, genuine peace agreements and improved, affordable education systems so that children can remain in Burma with their parents.

Mae Tao Clinic’s Role During the Transition Period

Mae Tao Clinic will continue to provide vital services to displaced and vulnerable people from Burma. It is anticipated that need for MTC’s services will continue for many years for the following reasons:

  • Positive change occurring as a result of reforms in central Burma will take time to reach border populations. It will take many years to develop infrastructure and rebuild and rehabilitate communities long-affected by conflict.
  • As an organisation run and staffed by people from the same communities it serves, MTC has built trust amongst the ethnic and displaced communities. Until government-run facilities in Burma can build the same level of confidence with patients, people living near the border will continue to utilise MTC services.
  • Displaced people in Thailand remain cautious of the political developments in Burma; recent history has shown that ceasefires can be broken and reforms can be reversed.
  • Land confiscation as a result of economic development projects and resource extraction is continuing to displace ethnic populations and force people across the border. Until development in Burma is able to take place without displacing populations and causing other human rights abuses, the displaced will continue to seek security and stability in Thailand, as well as access services at MTC.

Nevertheless, Mae Tao Clinic has been hoping for, and anticipating, positive change in Burma for many years and views the current developments as an opportunity to reduce the need for its services in the long run, enabling it to focus on primary care, outreach, prevention and training. During the transition period, MTC will endeavour to identify opportunities for greater co-ordination with organisations working inside Burma, as well as engage with and support the development of the broader healthcare and child protection systems.

A more detailed briefing is available to download here.

Contact: Dr Cynthia Maung info@maetaoclinic.org

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This post is in: Press Release

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