MAP Foundation

MAP Foundation is a grassroots Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that seeks to empower migrant communities from Burma living and working in Thailand. It became a registered Thai foundation in 2002 and is now a registered foundation under Thai law; known in Thai as "Foundation for the Health and Knowledge of Ethnic Labour".

Through its various programs, MAP works towards a vision of the future where migrants from Burma have their rights and freedoms fully protected. To reach this goal, MAP tries to incorporate a human rights perspective into policy decisions, increase understanding of the situation of migrant workers in the host country, reduce discrimination, and assist local migrant worker communities in improving their working and living conditions.

How we started

The pioneer of service provision for migrant workers in Thailand was an extraordinary health centre set up in Mae Sot by Dr Cynthia Maung in 1989 which now serves many hundreds of thousands of migrants annually. In Chiang Mai, a branch of empower, set up in 1990 opened its drop-in centre for all sex workers and was immediately adopted as the educational and empowerment centre for both Thai and migrant sex workers. In 1995 large numbers of migrants, mostly from Shan State were employed in Chiang Mai to work on the booming construction in the city, including the building of the South East Asian Games Sports Stadium. On the completion of the stadium, the migrants were arrested. Suddenly there were many migrants in police holding cells who could not communicate with the police.

In some cases migrants had been separated from their children and did not know where they were, or migrants were sick, translators and medics had to be found. Since there was no one organisation working directly with migrant workers, several organisations with related skills came together to assist. Burma Relief Centre, Images Asia and WEAVE had contact with Shan, Karen and Burmese translators, empower had contact with the social services, Medecins Sans Frontieres had medical doctors. These organisations, together with concerned individuals from the Thai, Burmese and foreign community started to meet regularly to discuss the situation and were joined by Swiss Aid, National health and education Council (Burma), Union of Civil Liberties. Each organisation made a small monthly contribution and organised translation services for migrants at hospitals and police stations.

In 1996, Diakonia offered a small six month grant to employ a Thai nurse and an outreach worker, to survey the situation, provide basic primary health care and health education and MAP (Migrant Assistance Programme) was born. More volunteers joined the MAP team from the migrant community and together formulated a set of Do’s and Don’ts for outreach work and the vision of MAP Foundation.  The vision that these 40 migrants, refugees, Burmese, Thai and foreign activists formulated in 1996 continues to guide the work of MAP Foundation today.