So maybe it is confusing for people that when I go to Thailand I work with Burmese people?

Why are there so many Burmese in Thailand? What are they doing there? Why do they need someone like me there to work with them?

Maybe you are asking those questions – maybe not! But anyway I think it is worth answering.

I work for an International Humanitarian Aid Agency based in Australia. We have a partnership approach to aid and community development, which means that we work with local community based organisations who implement programs based on community strengths and needs. We work with about 16 organisations all along the Thai Burma Border doing about 30 projects. Most of the projects are focused on health, migrant worker empowerment, womens capacity building and education.

I have written a little on the situation for Burmese in Thailand before (Burmese orphans in Thailand and Refugees and Migrant workers) but I think there is still some confusion about why the Burmese are in Thailand. I know that Thais are told a lot of things about it – The Thai Authorities like to portray Burmese as job-grabbing, drug-smuggling illegals. Many communities worry that they are sick with disease – as Thailand has done a lot of work on public health and Burma’s military regime has spent the last 50 years destroying all public infrastructure alowing only 3% of national expenditure on health, while the military, with a standing army of over 400,000 troops, consumes 40%.

The health care programs that my organisation and work supports shows that indeed people from Burma are suffering at this gross negligence, but it is rarely anything that would cause a public health concern at an individual level in a community. Yet there is a lot of intolerance there.

As to why there are up to 160,000 refugees in refugee camps in Thailand and between 1 million and 3 million Burmese living as migrant workers (or working refugees) in Thailand? Well most are fleeing what is the regions longest running civil war. Where the Burmese Government has been relentlessly attacking its own people now for decades.

But this video says it better then I ever could (note: some content is quite graphic):

because of this gross human tragedy I go to Thailand frequently, to do what I can to help.

Advertisements