Thai Foundation helps migrant children get an education

A foundation in Thailand has helped over 13,000 migrant children enter the Thai education system, saved over 400 from human trafficking and continues to provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to protect themselves from exploitation and abuse.

“Going to school can prevent human trafficking, physical assault and sexual abuse,” said Patima Tangpratyakun of the Labor Rights Promotion Network, which works with children of migrants in addition to helping their parents.

Patima said that education gives children the knowledge that will allow them to know when to say “no” to those trying to lure, fool or force them into abusive or exploitative situations. It can also teach them to recognize when those situations are arising. Children of migrants are regarded as among the most vulnerable children in any society.

Even for migrant children who are not preyed upon, going to school is an “extraordinary routine” they view with joy compared with many Thai children who tend to take schooling for granted, Patima said. Development experts agree that access to education and healthcare are essential for families to break the cycle of poverty that leads to some becoming migrants in search of better lives.

Tin Tin, a 21-year-old woman from Myanmar is living proof of that belief. At age nine her mother wanted her to work on a shrimp farm with the rest of her family in Thailand. But, she told the Bangkok Post newspaper, with help from the Labor Rights Promotion Network she was able to go to school. Today she is enrolled at St Theresa International College in Nakhon Nayok.

Patima’s foundation focuses on protecting the rights of, and pressing for better conditions for migrant workers in Thailand, with much of its work centering on the Myanmar migrants working in Thailand’s fishing industry. Thailand plays host to roughly two million migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and other countries, with the largest numbers coming from Myanmar.

In response to conditions for many migrant workers, the administration began a multi-year effort to identify, verify and register as many of the migrants as possible. Since the program began in late 2014, roughly 1.5 million have been registered. Registration means they do not have to hide in society’s shadows and can avail themselves of government services and legal protections.

The Labor Rights Promotion Network is not the only nongovernmental organization working to better the lives of migrant children. The Foundation for the Better Life of Children also provides assistance to migrant as well as poverty-stricken Thai children to get an education.

“Education builds opportunities in almost every aspect,”said Better Life’s Thongphun Buasi, known as Khru (Teacher) Chiw to her students. “It also plays a key role in building a more livable world.”