In the wake of Burma’s first elections in over 20 years, thousands of refugees are fleeing to Thailand from Burma.  The Burmese military that has ruled my country since 1962 has increased its army to more than 400,000 troops, and have been fighting ethnic armies in the border areas, causing an urgent humanitarian situation.  The news that I have received from friends and colleagues in the Myawaddy and the Three Pagodas Pass areas, where the fighting is happening now, is that women, men, children and elderly people are running across the border into Thailand.  I have seen this scene over and over again in the 22 years since I myself fled from Burma, and my heart is breaking for my people for the suffering they are facing still today.  As I write this, I know that they are terrified.  I know that they do not want to be refugees and they would not leave their home if they felt they had any other choice.  The reports are that up to 20,000 people have already fled—20,000 people who do not know whether they will escape from their country alive; people who do not know if they will have food or shelter for their children and their families; innocent people who didn’t do anything except be born in Burma as ethnic minorities. 

At ERI we’ve been working for more than 15 years to address the underlying problems that lead to humanitarian urgencies like these and we will keep doing that.  But right now, these people need help.  There are many great local organizations who are helping to respond to this terrible situation.  If you would like to help out, Mae Tao Clinic and TBBC are both effectively responding to this situation now:

The Mae Tao Clinic, founded by the renowned Dr. Cynthia Maung, provides free health care to refugees and migrants from Burma.  The clinic is located in Mae Sot, where more than 10,000 refugees have fled in the past day.

Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) is a consortium of international NGOs providing food, shelter and humanitarian relief to refugees on the Border.

A refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border is relocated in 2004