Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Child Rights , Thailand
Dr. Cynthia Maung
An ethnic Karen born in Burma in 1959, Dr. Cynthia Maung is Burma’s most famous doctor – yet she cannot return to her country. Dr. Cynthia has been in political exile since 1988 when, at the age of 28, she and fellow colleagues and protestors fled to Thailand to escape the military government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators throughout Burma. Known as the 8888 Uprising with major protests culminating in Rangoon on 8/8/1988, it’s estimated that 10,000 people were killed with thousands more fleeing the country.
Fleeing by foot and armed with just a small bag of medical tools, Maung spent her first month in Thailand visiting student refugee camps in Tak province and inspecting their primitive medical facilities. Malaria was rampant and medicines were in short supply. Settling in Mae Sot near the Burmese border, Dr. Cynthia was searching for a facility to use as a clinic. With the help of a friend, she found a dilapidated house on the outskirts of town. Dr. Cynthia went to work immediately and in February 1989, just five months after she fled Burma, she opened the doors to the house-cum-clinic where she still lives today. The Mae Tao Clinic continues to grow, providing comprehensive health services to as many as 150,000 patients a year.
As Dr. Cynthia’s Clinic grew, she realized that in order to care for her patients, especially the children, she needed to ensure they received more than just adequate medical care – they needed rights. In 2002, Maung formed the Committee for Protection and Promotion of Child Rights (CPPCR) to combat the issue of statelessness, promote child rights, and provide protection, education and healthcare to children of displaced, migrant Burmese living in Tak province and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) living in Eastern Burma.
Dr. Maung has received numerous international awards and recognition for her work on behalf of Burmese refugees. Most notably, she is the recipient of the 2013 Sydney Peace Prize and the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2012 Democracy Award.