BBP’s work is centered in and around the town of Mae Sot, which is located in Northern Thailand, directly on the border with Burma (or Myanmar). Since 1948, when Burma attained independence from Britain, severe internal strife and warfare, much of it along ethnic lines, has been a fact of life in the country. As a result, to escape the violence, a large population of displaced persons has crossed from Burma over to Thailand, particularly near Mae Sot. This area has become known simply as “the Border.”
At the Border about 150,000 people live in refugee camps and another 1.8 million or so live outside the camps. For all, the situation as stateless people who cannot go back and who cannot move on is nothing short of desperate. For those in the camps, there is a measure of legal status but limited freedom of movement and employment options.
Across the border in Burma itself, the situation is similarly dire. The nearby region of Burma has seen for many years a state of insurrection against the military government of Burma. The basic needs of this large population on both sides of the border for a sustained livelihood and for such basics as education and health care are met, if at all, in the most cursory manner.
For some fifteen years since its founding, BBP has provided services to the displaced people of the Border, with a particular emphasis upon mental health services. The organization began as a coordinated effort with the Mae Tao Clinic, for counseling services and, in particular, training for mental health care providers. BBP maintains its relationship with Dr. Cynthia Maung and the Mae Tao Clinic to this day.
BBP assists other organizations in and around Mae Sot in providing critical services to the displaced population. We place an emphasis on assisting grassroots organizations that effectively provide services and are largely run by Border residents themselves. These organizations include New Wave School, which was established in 2008 to meet an urgent need for education among the children of migrant workers. The school has largely been funded by the impoverished parents themselves.
BBP also supports The Overseas Irrawaddy Association (“OIA”). OIA operates a home for children in Mae Sot. Twenty-seven children, many of whom have been subjected to horrific abuse, live there. The children range in age from 4 to 13.