Imagine escaping to a new country unable to read or write in the local language. You lack the paperwork to live and work legally there and don’t understand how to access it. If you do find work, your employer demands bribes or reduced wages in exchange for not reporting your unregistered status. Police, too, extort you and threaten deportation.
Hundreds of thousands of Shan who come to Thailand to find a better life face exactly this fraught reality. Their resulting fear of local authorities and deportation causes many migrants to avoid public services – including schools, hospitals, and justice systems.
Our partner Fortune is working with Northern Thailand’s local government to provide full-time staff fluent in Shan and Thai to assist in legal counseling. With up-to-date knowledge of Thai policy and laws, Fortune staff members are able to successfully guide Shan people through legal procedures ranging from the making of ID cards, work permits, and passports to the recording of births and deaths. They also make weekly visits to remote communities to teach those who are fearful of showing up at government centers about Thai law and social services. In 2017, approximately 10,000 Shan migrant workers accessed Thai government facilities and services via Fortune’s program.