Vol. IX No. 8 - Tuesday
February 23 - March 1, 2010

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Pai receives funds from Japan for remote medical services

IBM opens first branch office in Chiang Mai

Battling Stigma and Discrimination through Legal Rights Education

Pai receives funds from Japan for remote medical services

Mrs, Junko Sakata, Consul General of Japan presents medical equipment to Pai Hospital. She is joined by Mr. Niwet Phunsawat, District Chief Officer of Pai District, Mr. Sombat Yasin, Member of Parliament for Mae Hong Son Province, and Dr. Sarawoot Supanpituk, Director of Pai Hospital.

The Government of Japan, under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects Scheme (GGP), has provided 3,070,000 baht for a project to improve medical services for residents in remote areas of Pai District in Mae Hong Son Province. On February 16, 2010, Mrs. Junko Yokota, Consul-General of Japan in Chiang Mai, Mr. Niwet Phunsawat, District Chief Officer of Pai District, Mr. Sombat Yasin, Member of Parliament for Mae Hong Son Province, and Dr. Sarawoot Supanpituk, Director of Pai Hospital, were present at the donation ceremony of vehicles and equipment at Pai Hospital.

Universal healthcare coverage in Thailand has allowed many people access to basic medical treatment more easily and free of charge. However, regional disparities in terms of opportunities for medical treatment still remain. In Pai district in Mae Hong Son Province, which shares a border with Myanmar and 80% of which comprises mountainous areas, residents living in remote areas, hill tribes, and foreign laborers from Myanmar have difficulty in gaining access to hospitals and in receiving appropriate medical treatment.

Considering such conditions, Pai Hospital, which is the only government hospital in the District, has expanded its ambulance services transporting patients between villages and the hospital and referring patients to Amphur Muang Mae Hon Song or Chiang Mai if more advanced treatment is required. Moreover, the hospital has provided people in remote areas with a mobile clinic service including medical check and basic treatment as well as the distribution of winter clothing. However, more vehicles and equipment are required to improve the efficiency of such service.

In response to a request from Pai Hospital, the Government of Japan has provided funds for an ambulance, a 4WD pick-up truck for the mobile clinic service, and a defibrillator. It is expected that the ambulance and mobile clinic service will improve and appropriate medical treatment and health care services will reach people living in remote mountainous areas. For more information about GGP, please contact Mr. Sato, Consul, or Mr. Tsuda, Ms. Hoshii, Coordinator for GGP. 053-203-367.


IBM opens first branch office in Chiang Mai

Michael K Morrow, 2nd left, U.S. Consul General in Chiang Mai, U.S. Ambassador Eric John, 3rd from left, Deputy Governor Pairote Saengphuwong, 4th from left,
and Thanwa Laohasiriwong, 5th from left, Managing Director of IBM Thailand at the opening of the new IBM office in Chiang Mai.

Jedsadapong Wongkiew

IBM Technology opened its first full service branch office in the North on February 17 as a response to the Thai government’s drive to make Chiang Mai the center of the creative economy in the North.

U.S. Ambassador Eric G. John and U.S. Consul General Michael K. Morrow joined Deputy Governor Pairote Saengphuwong and IBM Managing Director Thanwa Laohasiriwong in opening the new office. The new office is part of the company’s strategy to expand IBM’s business into the Northern provinces.

Mr. Thanwa added that, “local market demand in the North, and other joint ventures, networks, partners and other businesses based in Chiang Mail, all contribute to the economic growth that make Chiang Mai the economic hub of the northern region.”

The new office, under the “IT Clinic” concept, is located in the Plus Office Building, in Tambon Suthep, Muang District, Chiang Mai, near important business centers and the Chiang Mai International Airport.

Battling Stigma and Discrimination through Legal Rights Education

A pioneering workshop on legal, sexual and human rights education for Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker (MSW) community was successfully held on 4-5 and 10-11 February in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The workshop was a result of collaboration between Mplus (a Thailand based organisation addressing the sexual health needs of the MSM community in Chiang Mai) Bridges across Borders Southeast Asia BABSEA (an international grass roots human rights NGO) and The Open University. The project was funded by the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) and it also brought together participants from other front-line organisations in the fight against HIV/AIDS and discrimination against MSM, including Violet Home and Rainbow Sky.

The unique international collaboration was formed to address the fact that new HIV/AIDS infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) have been increasing significantly in Chiang Mai.  Additionally, Chiang Mai’s diverse MSM community faces increased vulnerability due to stigma, violence and discrimination as a result of the 2nd Annual Gay Pride Parade being cancelled last year. Taken together, these factors could enhance the risk of HIV infection.

BABSEA presented an interactive workshop on a large number of topics ranging from HIV/AIDS and the law and access to health care to sexual violence, discrimination, sexual rights, criminal law and procedure and housing rights.

The workshop initiated the development of a training manual to provide Mplus+ outreach and prevention workers and volunteers with information about human, legal and sexual rights under Thai law. The idea is that this manual will be used to train new peer education outreach workers. The manual has the potential to be used aims to by other organisations working directly with MSM, transgender and male sex workers and will provide information on how to access free legal counselling services and resources at the Chiang Mai University Legal Clinic.

MPlus+ views the production of the manual as strategic to reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with MSM and HIV/AIDS. It is anticipated that educating people about their rights will lead to improved access to health care and improved sexual health in their communities.

Dr Christopher Walsh, a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, believes that initiatives such as these workshops are crucial for Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker communities because it, “overcomes barriers that deny them access to resources and participation on social, economic, political and cultural relations”.

The organisers anticipate that this will be the first of many initiatives for improving access to education and healthcare in Chiang Mai’s MSM, transgender and male sex worker community through education about human, legal and sexual rights.

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