THE founder of a Thai border clinic treating refugees and those displaced by conflict in Myanmar fears cuts in foreign donor aid, including from Australia, will put even more pressure on vital services.
Dr Cynthia Muang will be in Australia this week to receive the Sydney Peace Prize, an international award that recognises those whose life and work have contributed to the achievement of peace with justice.
Dr Muang says despite recent political reforms in Myanmar (Burma), the role of her clinic, which sees 150,000 patients a year, remains critical given the country's poor health care standards.
"To continue empowering the people it is very essential to continue funding the border community so that we can continue to collaborate with the existing (aid) groups," she told AAP.
Among international donors, Australian aid to the Mae Tao clinic near the border town of Mae Sot in Western Thailand had been set at $A500,000 under the 2012-13 budget allocation through AusAid.
But the new federal government merged AusAid with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and announced it would stop the planned growth of the aid budget, effectively stripping it of $4.5 billion over four years.
Dr Muang says the clinic is struggling to meet demand as Myanmar slowly rebuilds after years of conflict.
Donor cuts would make it even harder to maintain services.
"It will be very stressful," she said.
An ethnic Karen, Dr Muang fled Myanmar in 1988 after the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Yangon (Rangoon) left hundreds dead, thousands injured and many student activists fleeing through the jungle to Thailand.
From initially treating wounded and sick students, the Mae Tao Clinic and its 700 staff now provide medical care, including minor operations and pre- and post-natal care, to refugees, migrant workers and their families.
But Myanmar's program of political and economic reforms has led to the threat of foreign donors channelling aid through Yangon rather than directly to affected populations along the border.
Dr Muang says it is vital that border communities have access to assistance that would otherwise be "restricted or challenging".
The funding, she says, is to empower local people so they can address their own public health and child protection issues and to strengthen the collaboration among non-government organisations (NGOs) and government aid.
She says despite the reforms in Myanmar, violence is ongoing. "The conflict is everywhere in Burma currently and at the community level as well," she said.
She welcomed the Sydney Peace Foundation's recognition of her clinic.
"Because of the support and the network we have been providing, not only health care but also education, protection, especially during the reform process in Burma, we feel it is great," she said.
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