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Burma's famous 'refugee' doctor wins Sydney Peace Prize


8 November 2013

The Sydney Peace Prize Jury recognised Dr Maung for her dedication to multiethnic democracy, human rights and the dignity of the poor and dispossessed, and for establishing health services for victims of conflict. [Image: Wendell Teodoro]
The Sydney Peace Prize Jury recognised Dr Maung for her dedication to multiethnic democracy, human rights and the dignity of the poor and dispossessed, and for establishing health services for victims of conflict. [Image: Wendell Teodoro]

The founder of a clinic in Thailand that treats up to 150,000 refugees, orphans and migrant workers a year, Dr Cynthia Maung, has received the 2013 Sydney Peace Prize.

Dr Maung, who founded the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai-Burmese border in 1989, delivered the Peace Prize Lecture at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday 6 November, and received the prize on Thursday 7 November at the University of Sydney's MacLaurin Hall.

Dr Maung, an ethnic Karen, fled her native Burma during the pro-democracy uprising of 1988. The Mae Tao Clinic she founded shortly afterwards has grown from a one-room hut where she used a rice cooker to sterilise instruments to a veritable village, with a hospital, school and canteen. Up to 500 meals are served every day and there are more than 600 members of staff.

The Sydney Peace Prize is Australia's only international award for peace. Previous recipients include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Noam Chomsky, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Mary Robinson, Patrick Dodson, and, last year, Zimbabwean Senator Sekai Holland.

Welcoming the award, Dr Maung said: "The prize is a way of bringing international attention to the plight of Burma. It highlights that the peace process needs to be monitored by the international community."

According to Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Jane Singleton, drawing attention to Dr Maung's work is particularly urgent as the Mao Tao Clinic will be severely affected by the cessation of annual funding from AusAid.

"What Dr Maung has achieved against the most appalling odds is extraordinary," Ms Singleton said.

"Her selflessness and the conviction that health care must be available to all, regardless of their poverty, race or political conviction, is central to the realisation of human rights and meaningful peace.

"Without her clinic, many thousands of Burmese would have died and many more would face a lifetime of disability and disease."

The Award Ceremony and Lecture are generously supported by the University of Sydney and the City of Sydney. Singapore Airlines, a Partner in Peace, is flying Dr Maung and members of her advocacy group to Australia.


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