VOA News - Clinic on Thai Border Caught in Turmoil
A clinic on Thailand's border with Burma is struggling to treat a rising flood of Burmese patients -- a reflection of the country's political repression and economic woes. [...]
Dr. Cynthia Muang, an ethnic Karen, set up the clinic in 1989, after she fled to the border area, like so many of her compatriots, after Burma's military crushed pro-democracy protests and calls for reform in 1988. In the early days, Dr. Cynthia, as she is known, mostly treated young men who also had fled to the jungle after the crackdown.
Then, for many years, the clinic treated the victims of the government's efforts to quash rebellions by ethnic groups along the border. The fighting displaced more than 500,000 people within Burma, while two million Burmese fled to Thailand. But ceasefires in recent years between the rebels and Rangoon mean that fewer war wounded come to the clinic. Dr. Cynthia says the caseload has changed markedly over the years and most patients now are poor workers.
"After 2000, we see more adolescent age groups come to Thailand, to work in the factories or the farms. We see teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions. We see more accidents, occupational accidents, road accidents, injuries caused by violence," says Dr. Cynthia Muang. [...]
The clinic also is the base for so-called "backpack teams" -- medical workers who travel into Burma's Karen state, often for weeks at a time. Teams of two-to-four workers visit villages that lack medical services. Saw Roman, a Karen, one of the senior members of the 70 teams that cross the border says, "We will visit village by village, treating the patients, especially for common diseases like malaria, acute respiratory tract infections, and diarrhea, dysentery, some measles and cholera. Communicable disease is very common, and malnutrition, landmine injuries, emergency obstetric care are very common, and mental health problems." Saw Roman says the work has risks. Burma's military, he says, tries to hunt down the medics. Seven have died after being shot by the military. [...]
In 2002, [Dr Cynthia] received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, which honors Asians who work to protect human rights, for the help she has given to tens of thousands.