The Situation.

Most of the children in Childlife’s project are from minority ethnic groups (mostly Akha) who live in both Thailand and Burma. Nearly all of them lived in the Burmese territory before leaving their villages due to the economic situation, human rights abuse, forced labour, violence and various other side effects of the war.

The war between Myanmar’s army and the Shan South East (SSE) political party causes unspeakable suffering, especially for children. Many of them have lost both parents and have no protection or support. Some are misused by the army for trap searches or other extremely dangerous work. Some earn money as drug couriers, as beggars, or in the sex trade.


The area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos meet is well known as the "Golden Triangle", acknowledging the large opium production in this area. The Thai government has recently gained control of the border area, and has eradicated all of the poppy farms on the Thai side. On the Burmese and Laotian sides, however, opium production is still a thriving industry.

Many drug-addicted parents are no longer able to take care of their children. Kids leave their homes to try their luck in Thailand, the richer neighbouring country. As a result, they are often lured into child labour, sex work, and theft. They frequently become involved with drug trafficking, and often abuse drugs or other poisonous substances such as glue.


Inhaling glue at the bridge.

Children collecting rubbish on the streets of Maesai in the hope of selling it.

A large number of children from minority ethnic groups live in poverty. Even when children belonging to groups such as Akha, Karen, Lahu, and Lisu are born in Thailand, they are not registered, and are not given a Thai Identification (ID) card. Without this ID card, they are considered illegal, and have very few social and medical rights.

Many of these children suffer from a complete lack of education. Either their home villages are too far from local schools, or their families haven’t the money to pay for local public school. A large number cannot attend school because they are forced by their families to earn money instead. In addition, many minority ethnic groups speak their own language, independent of national Thai language. This also makes it very difficult for the children of these villages to become integrated into the Thai public school system.

The street children in Maesai live in squalid conditions. They survive by sifting through rubbish for recyclable materials and scraps of food. Many bathe in unhygienic conditions at the river. None have access to medical care when they become ill, creating a substantial public health issue.

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