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Mae Tao Clinic gets set for big move

An artist paints a mural on one of the buildings that will be part of the Mae Tao Clinic at its new location in Mae Sot, Thailand. (Photo: Libby Hogan / DVB)

The Mae Tao Clinic, a health facility in the Thai border town of Mae Sot that has served refugees, migrants and poor villagers from Burma for nearly three decades, will celebrate its move to a new location tomorrow with an official grand-opening ceremony open to the public.

The clinic, established in 1989 by Dr Cynthia Maung, has grown from one small building to a healthcare centre that provides free medical services to around 150,000 displaced people from Burma every year.

Fundraising manager Shalini Perunal said final preparations were being made ahead of tomorrow’s event.

“We are very busy but very excited to move into the new facilities. At the current grounds the clinic is very overcrowded, so we are excited to move to a new space,” she told DVB on Friday.

The opening will include an exhibition and an auction of 50 artworks by artists from Burma to raise funds for operational costs, Perunal said. The clinic relies solely on donations and currently faces funding shortfalls to cover general equipment costs.

“We are in a situation where we are using our reserves to cover our shortfalls, but it’s falling short, so we really need to get new donors,” she said.

Perunal explained that the Mae Tao Clinic has recently experienced a decrease in donor funding due to changes in Burma’s political situation.“Because of the new democratic transition in Burma, some donors have decided to shift their focus to more Burma-based health programmes and not on what we focus on, which is migrant workers.”

Saturday’s official opening will include traditional dances, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and guest speakers, including Free Funeral Service Society deputy chair Than Mint Aung, health writer Dr Khin Maung Nyo, and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society activist Jimmy.

The new facility will provide the same services previously available at the former clinic location, but some units, such as the reproductive health unit, will be significantly expanded, while new accommodation for families of patients undergoing treatment will also be provided.

Dr Cynthia Maung, the clinic’s founder, said the new facility will continue to provide more than just healthcare for the tens of thousands of impoverished and vulnerable patients who use its services each year.

“We are not only a clinic — we are like a community centre. We provide healthcare, education and protection, and we also advocate for health services,” she told DVB in a recent interview.