When Home Is on the Border

The Sangklaburi district on the Western border with Thailand is a fluid place where the marginalized represent the majority. Over 5,000 people a day stream through a large gate, crossing from Myanmar into Thailand, for work. Displaced people, ethnic minorities, and refugees all live here.

Pattanarak Foundation has worked in the district since 2001 to improve living standards of border communities, of which the vast majority are non-Thai citizens residing in Thailand. Although they have permission to live in the area, it comes with great restrictions, like the inability to own land, to grow food, or to travel to cities for better pay.

The foundation connects with residents to overcome these odds. In forums such as local savings groups and regular meetings with key stakeholders, including government leaders, it helps members of this ad-hoc community to identify needs – sanitation, teaching youth about safe migration – and then guides them through the problem-solving and project planning needed to make changes happen. As a result, border and migrant communities have established farming cooperatives, self-run savings groups and established community networks for advocacy and support in labor, health and educational concerns.