A lot of the families we work with are moving this month. Our family is also moving this month. We’re moving from a large house to an even bigger house that happens to cost less because it doesn’t have western style bathrooms. (The rent we will pay on this house is less than many Americans families spend on groceries in a single week.) We’re moving because our landlord has need of the space we have lived in so far, and gave us 60 days notice that we needed to find a new place to live. We even get the last month refunded if we can be out two weeks early.
Our migrant friends are moving for a very different reason. The one-room shacks they live in are being torn down. Their Thai boss is relocating them out into a national forest where they have to hide from the police every day because they aren’t allowed to live there and he won’t take responsibility if they go to jail. They are thinking of quitting, of finding somewhere else to go, but without a Thai employer they won’t have an ID card, which means they’ll be here illegally and sent to jail if caught.
Some other families are moving for the 3rd time this year already. They move from a fairly sturdy house in the middle of nowhere, without running water or electricity, to an open sided shed in the middle of a field next to the highway. They are going to work that field, and that landowner will give them an ID card. The landowner where they currently are doesn’t pay on time, and refuses to give them ID cards. They are willing to live in something that we wouldn’t even classify as a building in order to get paid on time and not have to run from the police.
One of the babies from the first birth class doesn’t have a birth certificate yet. His parents are at the mercy of their Thai employer, who must sign the papers from the clinic in order for him to get a certificate. It doesn’t make him a Thai citizen, but it registers him as a resident here. It costs the employer nothing but a signature. Currently the baby is a nonperson, a child that doesn’t exist on paper. It’s been 3 months since he was born. The landlord has still not signed, holding the family hostage to his whims and conveniences.
This is some of what it is like to be a migrant worker in Thailand. This is the sort of injustice that in encountered by the families we work with every day. Often in situations like this the children end up in orphanages or boarding school because there is no good place for the family to stay together.
We are working with these families to find long-term solutions. Some of the options include helping them to lease some land together, or a building, and go into business for themselves, perhaps a restaurant.. This idea will require a Thai national to be a part owner in the business in order to make it legal, and we will need to arrange that.
As always, solutions to situations like this require creative problem solving skills and resources, something we work to teach and provide.
Thank you for your support as we partner with these vulnerable families.