Chiangrai Times – The Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, 320 kilometres north-west of Bangkok, has appealed for Bt13 million (US$419,355 dollars) to meet this year’s cost of treating an estimated 100,000 patients from neighboring Myanmar.
“This year the money from individual donors and foundations hasn’t been coming in,” said Lisa Houston, a spokeswoman for the clinic.
She blamed “a combination of the economic downturn in the West as well as a perception that things on the border should be okay because the media on Burma is all about political changes.” Myanmar, a former pariah state among Western democracies, has carried out political and economic reforms since President Thein Seinassumed office in March 2011.
But the reforms have yet to lead to improved health services,especially in conflict areas such as the Karen State, where most of the Mae Tao clinic’s patients come from, border sources said.
“The situation on the ground hasn’t changed,” said Debbie Stothard, a Myanmar activist. “What’s changed is the attitude of donors.”
The Mae Tao clinic was set up in 1989 by Doctor Cynthia Maung, who won South-east Asia’s Magsaysay Award in 2003 for humanitarian work on the border.
The clinic receives donations, primarily from the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, Norway and the United States which collectively provide about Bt60 million (US$1.9 million) per annum. These governments have not yet cut their donations to the clinic, sources said.
“But as the situation evolves in Burma we are afraid the funding is going to keep getting harder,” Houston said. Mae Sot has long been a refuge for ethnic minority groups fleeing fighting in Myanmar.
There are an estimated 140,000 refugees in camps around Mae Sot.