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Health workers on strike at Mae La refugee camp

Mae La refugee camp, pictured in 2011. (PHOTO: DVB)

Health workers at Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border have gone on strike to protest what they allege is discrimination by the Aide Medical International (AMI) organisation, which provides healthcare for refugees in the camp.

A managing staff member at the health centre in Mae La told DVB on Monday that more than 300 health workers in the camp, which has a resident population of some 38,000, have been on strike since last Tuesday.

He said action was taken when AMI, which is ceasing operations at the camp at the end of this month, refused to pay Mae La health care staff severance money, unlike the policy it adopted for its staffers in the nearby town of Mae Sot.

“They are treating us medical workers in the camp differently from their staffers in Mae Sot – we don’t get equal rights, and they treat us unfairly due to the fact that we are refugees,” she said.

AMI is set to pull out of the camp at the end of July due to budgetary constraints. It is slated to be replaced by another organisation, the American Refugee Committee, or ARC.

Medical workers in the camp allege that AMI has insisted that only those health workers who do not get offered new jobs at ARC will be eligible for compensation.

AMI refused to comment.

The French NGO group endured a similar situation in 2014 when health workers in the Nupo refugee camp staged a strike to protest against alleged discrimination and demand better pay.

In addition to its programmes in Thailand and Burma, AMI funds clinics and trains health workers in Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan, Haiti and Pakistan.

AMI was created in 1979 out of a split with its mother organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières, over policy on whether to fund a hospital ship for boatpeople attempting to leave North Vietnam.