Burma Border Projects (BBP) is dedicated to serving the needs of the Burmese refugees (mainly ethnic Karen and Shan) who reside along the border between Burma and Thailand.
Our primary focus is in the previously neglected area of mental health training and treatment, to address the psychosocial consequences of trauma that are experienced by Burmese refugees, and associated with human rights abuses and dislocation. This is accomplished by working collaboratively with local organizations that support and provide culturally relative assistance to Burmese refugees, migrants and internally displaced people.
An additional focus of BBP will be to "fill in the cracks" by providing funding for smaller projects not normally addressed by larger relief organizations, such as maintenance orphanages, safe houses, and schools. Through our partnerships, BBP is also involved in programs designed to enhance the economic and social empowerment of refugee women.
Burma is home to one of the most oppressive governments in our world today. Political repression touches everyone in the country. Severe human rights abuses – extra-judicial killings, widespread torture, forced labor, forced relocations, rape and political imprisonment – are commonplace. This brutality has forced groups of Burmese people to flee their homes and take cover in the country's dense jungles or escape to neighboring countries. The estimated 200,000 internally displaced persons that live in forests close to the Thai-Burma border remain vulnerable to forced labor, army-imposed relocations and fighting between the Burmese military and ethnic insurgent groups. Those fleeing Burma to refugee camps outside the country face an arduous and dangerous journey and the reality of a life offering little stability or self-determination. This only proliferates suffering brought on by the human rights abuses they have endured. Non-governmental organizations, human rights groups and local refugee groups provide few psychosocial resources to refugees with trauma.
There remains a critical need for psychological intervention and rehabilitation. In 1999, responding to an appeal from Dr. Cynthia Maung at Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, a group of American psychiatrists and psychologists set out to ascertain the level and extent of trauma experienced by refugees on the border, and develop a strategy for providing mental health services. Successive exploratory visits to the Thai-Burma border and data obtained from camp leaders, health workers and organizations such as the Burmese Refugee Committee, revealed an urgent need for assistance in dealing with trauma unique to Burmese refugees. Alarm over the range of needs and the unique fact that most Burmese refugees experience severe multiple traumas, led to the formation of Burma Border Projects (BBP). Since then, BBP has been providing crucial assistance and resources to increase the availability of mental health services and safer conditions on the Thai-Burma border.
Women's community organizations, Dr Cynthia's resident medics, and the "back pack doctors" she trains are now participants in a formal mental health training curriculum designed jointly by BBP trauma therapists and Dr. Cynthia herself.