MSF Reluctantly Withdraws From Thailand After 35 Years

After months of negotiations and discussions with Thai authorities, it has proved impossible to get permission to provide health care to the undocumented migrants and vulnerable populations in Thailand who Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) believes are the most in need of medical assistance. Earlier this year, MSF was forced to close its projects in Samut Sakhon and Pagodas Pass, depriving 55,000 vulnerable people of their only access to health care.

In September, MSF came to the conclusion that there was no choice but to close the medical organization’s longest-running mission, which started with the provision of assistance to Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer regime in 1976. In the 1980s MSF provided support to refugees from Myanmar, and since the mid 1990s it has played a key role in providing and advocating for comprehensive care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. In the 2000s, MSF continued to respond to emergencies and provided health care to Hmong refugees in the northern part of the country.

In 36 years, access to health care has greatly improved in Thailand. The country was one of the first to introduce free antiretroviral treatment for HIV patients. Today, however, part of the population remains on the fringe. Undocumented migrant workers and communities living along the borders are still deprived of access to basic health care services. Despite authorities’ efforts to register migrants, it is estimated that between 1.5 million and two million migrants are still undocumented and are not entitled to health care. MSF is deeply concerned about their fate, but sadly has not reached an agreement with the authorities to contribute to improving their health status. While the organization will close its permanent project, MSF will still remain alert and ready to respond to emergencies.