Burmese migrant workers have few rights, either inside their country or out.
Australian journalist Phil Thornton gave a compelling presentation to the club Tuesday evening about the plight of Burmese refugees, both internally and here in Thailand. Thornton, the author of "Restless Souls: Rebels, Refugees, Medics and Misfits on the Thai-Burma Border," noted that three to four million Burmese workers come into Thailand each year, many without official approval. These workers often lose what little they have or earn to "agents" and others who take advantage of their dire situation. The reasons refugees flee Burma or remain in Thailand include military seizure of their land, indiscriminate placement of landmines, and the overwhelming drug trade, especially in the northwestern Shan State of Burma. To help refugees with severe medical problems, Thornton's wife Kanchana has sponsored the Burmese Children's Medical Fund, which supports a house here in Chiang Mai for patients awaiting treatment at local hospitals. Since the BCMF partners with the Mae Tao Clinic, and supporting child protection through Mae Tao is already a CMIRC project, our club plans to help out at the house in the future.
Club President Shana Kongmun thanks journalist Phil Thornton for sharing his experiences with CMIRC.