Updated: MSF pulls out

7 10 2011

Long-time readers of PPT will know that we have sometimes commented on border issues and the often inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants by Thai authorities. In this post, we have some comments on the Médecins Sans Frontières and the end of its more than three decades of work in Thailand. There is a longer story on the impact of the pullout here.

As The Irrawaddy notes, MSF is “one of the world’s major humanitarian organizations” and it has announced “that it had ended its operations in the country because of interference by the Thai government.”

According to the report, MSF has “provided free medical treatment not only to registered migrant workers and refugees in Thailand, but also to thousands of undocumented migrants who relied on the group’s projects for medical assistance.”

MSF’s head of mission in Thailand, Denis Penoy, made the following comments on the organization’s withdrawal from Thailand:

Question: Can you briefly explain why the MSF closed its mission in Thailand?

Answer: The decision to close our mission in Thailand is mostly based on administrative blockages we have faced in providing healthcare to vulnerable populations. Despite negotiations with the authorities, we have not been authorized to provide healthcare to undocumented migrants and marginalized populations.

Q: How did the Thai government obstruct MSF’s work in Thailand?

A: We faced some misunderstandings in terms of administrative procedures required to provide healthcare to marginalized populations in Samut Sakhon and Three Pagodas Pass. Despite numerous attempts, it has proved impossible to regularize our administrative situation. Earlier this year we were forced to the close Samut Sakhon and Three Pagodas Pass projects. Maybe the healthcare of undocumented migrants was not their priority.

PPT would be interested to know more about the nature of the obstruction. Local authorities in border areas have strong pressure from the military. Since the 2006 coup and under the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, the military has virtually dictated border policy and has been seen deporting refugees and even persons registered with foreign embassies and the U.N.

Update: MSF’s announcement is here, referring to the months of fruitless negotiation.


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