Land Sale Dispute Could Affect Some Facilities at Mae Tao Clinic

By Land Rights, Nyein Nyein 8 July 2013

Mae Tao Clinic founder Cynthia Maung said that some of the facilities of her long-running medical charity for Burmese refugees in Thailand’s Tak province could be affected by a disputed land sale, but she added that the main clinic would not suffer from the dispute.

Thai newspaper The Nation reported on Saturday that the Metta Thammarak Foundation, an organization with Thai members who are registered as owners of some of the clinic’s land, had agreed to the sale of 1,200 square meters of land to a local policeman, Lt-Col Cholthep Maichai, based in Fang.

The report said that Thai social critic Sulak Sivaraksa had called on the organization’s members to file a lawsuit against the foundation’s chairman Phra Kittisak Kittisophano, a Buddhist monk who had approved the unauthorized sale of land for about US $83,300.

Sulak, who is a founder of Metta Thammarak, has said that Cynthia Maung would not be qualified to lodge a lawsuit herself, as she was not a Thai national and the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) was not registered as a legal entity.

Cynthia Maung said the planned sale of the plots would not directly affect the MTC as it concerned only part of its premises where the old clinic building and nurse’s training school were located. She added that she had only heard about the disputed sale through the media.

“The current dispute does not affect the MTC’s service, but it could have impact on the long run if we are not allowed to use these facilities,” Cynthia Maung told The Irrawaddy. The MTC’s main building is located on larger premises that were being leased, she added.

“The foundation’s members are now solving this issue among themselves. The legal matters are beyond our hands because these lands were bought under the name of the Thai foundation in 2003,” she said.

Cynthia Maung said Sulak had helped acquire the land for the MTC through the Metta Thammarak Foundation a decade ago because as a Burmese citizen she is unable to own land in Thailand.

She added that the MTC was planning to move its main hospital building to a new location in the coming years.

Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) was founded in 1989 and provides healthcare to the Burmese refugee community that sprung up near Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border during past decades of ethnic conflict in Karen state and other parts of Burma. The MTC treats tens of thousands of people every year, including many Burmese migrant workers.

Cynthia Maung has been honored with the international awards, including the Southeast Asia’s Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2002 and most recently National Endowment for Democracy’s 2012 Democracy Award.