There are more than two million hill tribe people are living in Thailand without official identity cards, according to a recent UNESCO report.
Some are Burmese who have fled across border others have lived for generations in Thailand but don’t have official documents.
It means that their children can’t access public education.
Hill tribe children without ID cards are 70 percent less likely to go to primary school that other Thai children.
But King Kong Janoi visits The Community Leaning Center (CLC) in Mae Hong Son that’s trying to solve this problem.
Children laugh as they try to learn English.
Most of them were born in Thailand but don’t have ID cards so they can’t go to state schools.
Amongst them is 18 year old Saw Pow Kwar from the Karen tribe
“After I finished the middle school, I thought my learning age was over but when I heard that I can continue my study here. I am really happy.”
Children like Saw who don’t have Thai ID cards are 98 percent less likely than other Thai children to go university.
Kyaw Hla Sein the founder of the Community Leaning Center wants to provide these children with an alternative.
“When first I started teaching the children are only allowed to study in middle school not high school and further education and to set up this school I thought that I will let them learn English language here, then I will invite the community development experts to come and give them training so they know how to run a project directly of benefit to needy people in communities.”
20 years ago Kyaw Hla Sein fled from Burma after he was forced to work as a porter for the Burmese military.
“The Burmese soldier caught me, arrested me and forced me to be porter for seven months. During the seven months, the soldiers forced every porter to carry rice and ammunitions. I saw two over fifty years’ old men who couldn’t go just left by the soldiers in the middle of the jungle. I hoped that they would be able to make it home but seven months later I came back to that area and I saw only their skeletons remained.”
He says he saw some horrible things during that time.
“On the way I saw young men between 20 to 25 trying to run away and the Burmese soldier shot them death. I also saw other porters who have difficulty carrying things when they have trouble, the Burmese soldier cut the bamboo and hit them like a dog.”
When he arrived in Thailand as a refugee he sold cigarettes for a living.
“For my daily survival I have to go so many village and town to work and earn by living. I saw many people who came from Burma and I saw their children as well. But the parents do not have a citizenship so that they can’t work. Even for their daily survival, it is very hard. I saw that the children wanted to learn and get an education and I decide that one day if I have the money I will set up a school for these children.”
He got a job with the UNHCR and used his international standard wages to build the Community Leaning Center in Mae Hong Son.
There are now 32 students at his school.
They learn English, Thai and computer skills- so they will be able to find work.
But it’s not just about making money. Kyaw shows a group of students how to make mud bricks in the environmental awareness class.
“We teach them making mud brick to build mud brick not using cement. It is very good for poor people; it is a way out for poor people not to get touch not to effect forest.”
This area borders Burma where environmental groups say there is unsustainable logging taking place.
Rosy one of teachers at the school says they want to be an example for the wider community.
“For the people in the village come and look and copy these good ideas. Like three months ago, the head of Doi San village came to learn about how to use mud bricks so they don’t have to cut down the forest.”
Kyaw Hla Sein also teaches his students about organic farming.
“Organic farming is very important because now people added to chemical fertilizer and pesticides. It is not good for long run especially if you eat these vegetable you will get infect.”
The school has been officially recognized by the local governor.
Now students can use their graduation certificate to enter any university in Thailand.
Emmet Kearney the English teachers says students here are very keen to learn.
“They know if they work hard they can do something more importance, open up opportunity. So it is really nice to teach students that want to learn and have a chance to change their life with English.”
Saw Maung Maung the director of the Ethnic Migrant Family Society says children who are born in Thailand must be given education rights.
“We are left from Burma more than 25 years ago, some are older. We don’t have any opportunity because we recognize as stateless people but our children who were born here should not face like that, right now these children have many difficulty for their future progressing.”