Thousands of Shan and people of Burma’s other ethnic minorities have fled from their homes due to civil war, forced labor, and poverty hoping to start new lives in Thailand. Not recognized as refugees and forced to work in unsafe, underpaid jobs to survive, parents are often unable to look after their children. Many have also died, often in the course of working under difficult, exploitative conditions, leaving orphans behind.

For these children, who often lack basic necessities such as food and clothing, the chance to go to school is a distant dream, virtually guaranteeing a future of poverty and danger. Due to the fact that these children do not hold proper ID papers, they do not have the rights to education and proper health care in Thailand despite their universal rights for education. These children are at high risk of being exploited in human trafficking, sex industry and drug trade.

In response to this unmet need, we have decided to establish a school at Nong Ook to help children of migrants who would otherwise not have a chance to study, enabling them to access basic education. The need is particularly great in communities living in the border areas, where people continue to flee across to escape harsh conditions in their native homes.

Newer migrants are particularly vulnerable: without language skills and access to basic services in Thailand, they are forced to work under the most exploitative conditions. Providing a safe haven for migrant children would not only help the children access education, it would also support families already struggling to survive.

We hope to equip the children with tools for a brighter future, such as basic language and social skills in addition to some vocational training. It would also instill a certain discipline, helping them to become future productive members of society. Community development is a long-term investment; providing children with the appropriate foundations is the key and the first step.

Shan Children are Receiving Better Education in Thailand

By Noom Hkurh, 2010

Shan children are receiving better education in Thailand. Due to the conflict and civil war in Burma, children have fled to Thailand with their parents. The living conditions in Burma are terrible, especially, in the rural areas in the conflict zone. There is neither health service nor education for children.

In Thailand, children can get more opportunities in education. Children are helped by monasteries, CBOs and NGOs to access to basic education and health care. Children are staying in Thailand safely and their parents and relatives have no worries that their children would be recruited to the army, tortured or suffer from harassment as these are very high risks in Burma. Nobody wants these things to happen to their children.

Many Shan children who have come from Burma are living on the Thai-Burmese border in difficult conditions. There are many things have made children from Burma feel isolated and feel that they have limited chances in education, healthcare, personal expression. As a consequence, many Shan children have been faced with everal troubles in their lives. Though Thailand has a policy calle, “Free 15 years education for all children”, in practice, in many places, children can’t get into school. The problems are:

1. Communication problems, the parents don’t get information and don’t know the policy.
2. The schools don’t want to have children with no status, as they have the negative attitudes toward this group of children and as it is complicated in documentin.,
3. There are extra expenses, such as extracurricular costs, more uniforms and shoes which are not included in the free education policy and the government hasn’t provided. Many parents and relatives can’t afford for their children to attend school.
4. Many schools deny taking children with no status for the reason that Ministry of interior is concerned with state security. In some areas the schools compromise and try to help children with no status to get into school. Only some Shan children can do this, many still can’t access public education, especially Shan children who are staying on farms which are outside the town. The other trouble for many Shan children to get into schools is their ag: they have never been into school before, so they are too old to begin to study in grade one.

Parents, relatives or caregivers have a lack of knowledge to care for their children and their children’s education. Most Shan children came to Thailand with their parent, and there are many children who were sent with their relatives or their neighbors. Many children were orphans whose parents died of sickness or in war. People fled to Thailand for safety and expect to have a better daily life. It’s not easy on their arrival. The main problem is lack of status, poverty and trouble in communication.

“On their arrival, they have to stay out of the town or in the farms, they can’t be in public. They have to start to do the work in farms with low pay and hard jobs; it’s very hard for them. Parents have to move around to look for jobs and it effects to their children’s study that children can’t stay in the same place for school” (Mwe, 2010).

“Many children were sent to Thailand for opportunity in education. They can’t have a chance to study in Burma. Lives of children in Burma is difficult, the schools are only in the big town. Children in the rural areas do not have chance to go to school “(Ven Phra Maha Waikoang, 2010).

Due to the situation and conflict in Burma many people have made their way to Thailand. Most of the people from Burma that have fled to Thailand lived in the conflict and war zone areas. Their lives in Burma had no security, no education, and no health service. Many children were born at home. Sickness and diseases were treated the traditional way. Lives for children, women and men are dangerous. The army recruits child soldiers and rapes women, which causes much suffering. Nobody wants to be forced laborers or land mine sweepers. Many people come to Thailand seeking safety and peace.

People who come to Thailand wish to have a better daily life and try to be away from the brutal government. They know that in Thailand they can work and earn money to support for their family. Moreover, they know that their children will be safe and can go to school. The parents learnt that only education will help their children to have a good future.

Many children, especially boys whose parents are poor and who are orphans in Thailand were sent to a monastery to stay as novice and study. This group of children gets help from the monastery. In Thailand, children have more opportunities in education; both the government and communities encourage children to go to school. Hundreds and hundreds of children are staying at the schools that have been set up by organizations on the Thai-Burma border.

The Shan children have more opportunities in education in Thailand. Though, it is not easy for the children to access to school, as they don’t have status, the parents have financial problems and cannot afford their children to go to school. Due to the conflict in Burma, people had made their way to Thailand, and their children now have chance to study. There are organizations that provide help in education for children and the governmental organizations are considering education for children with no status.
The governmental organizations and NGOs should learn to understand more about the Shan children and work together to help developing living conditions and chance in education for children, so children can have more opportunities in education. Parents, relatives and caregivers should be educated and informed clearly so that all children can learn. Shan children should be also given chance and stage to tell their stories and dreams through books, websites and videos. With this we all can learn more about them and can give more help to these peoples in need.


- WoangPeang, P. (2010, June 10). Coordinator of The Life Skills Development Foundation. Interview.
- Phra Visutho, V. (2010, June 9). The abbot of WatArunotai. Interview.
- Khambang, N. (2010, June 9). Teacher at Schools of Hope, Nong Ook, Chiangdao. Interview.
- PhraKoangMun, D. (2010, June 9). Teacher at Schools of Hope, Nong Ook, Chiangdao. Interview.
- LoongJing, M. (2010, June 9). Teacher at Schools of Hope, Nong Ook, Chiangdao. Interview.