MSF reluctantly withdraws from Thailand after 35 years

October 6, 2011

MSF reluctantly withdraws from Thailand after 35 years © Michael Heine

Bangkok/ Brussels, Persisting needs among undocumented migrants, but MSF not permitted to respond.

After months of negotiations and discussions with Thai authorities, it has proved impossible to get permission to provide healthcare to undocumented migrants and vulnerable populations in Thailand that MSF believes are the most in need of medical assistance. Earlier this year, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was forced to close its projects in Samut Sakhon and three Pagodas Pass, depriving 55,000 vulnerable people of their only access to healthcare.

In September, MSF came to the conclusion that there was no choice but to close the medical organization’s longest-running mission, which started with the provision of assistance to Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer regime in 1976. In the 1980’s MSF provided support to refugees from Myanmar. From the mid 1990’s the organization played a key role in providing and advocating for comprehensive care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. In the 2000’s MSF continued to respond to emergencies and provided healthcare to Hmong refugees in the Northern part of the country.

In 36 years, access to healthcare has greatly improved in Thailand. The country was one of the first to introduce free antiretroviral treatment for HIV patients. Today, however, part of the population remains on the fringe. Undocumented migrant workers and communities living along the borders are still deprived of access to basic healthcare services. Despite authorities’ efforts to register migrants, it is estimated that between 1.5 million and 2 million migrants are still undocumented and are not entitled to healthcare. MSF is deeply concerned about their fate but sadly has not reached an agreement with the authorities to contribute to improving their health status. While the organization will close its permanent project, MSF will still remain alert and ready to respond to emergencies if needs be.

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