Called “Land of the Livres” because, throughout its history, while its neighbors in Southeast Asia were colonized by European nations, its people managed to maintain their freedom with much struggle. Famous for its exuberant natural beauty, which includes forests, rivers, and paradisiacal beaches, an internationally recognized cuisine, for those who already own the country what stands out is the kindness of its people. Today with 70 million inhabitants (2021), its capital, Bangkok (10 million) is undoubtedly one of the most influential and prosperous cities in Asia. The official language is Thai and the official religion is Buddhism, practiced by 95% of the population. It is also worth noting that, although 95% of its population is ethnically Tai, it is a multi-ethnic nation by dozens of minorities, such as the Lao Krang, Nyahkur, Khmers, etc. in rural areas.
Even with great economic prosperity and relative political stability, its people, especially the most vulnerable, suffer from corruption, since many of its leaders, whether in politics, business and even military and police, in exchange for great profit, maintain a protective siege for various criminal businesses, including environmental degradation, drug, arms, prostitution, and human trafficking.
Among so many victims, they stand out as girls, kidnapped and sold to the prostitution chain. It is a fact that the “sex industry” generates an increased share of the country's GDP. It is estimated that 20% of girls between 11 and 17 years old (800 thousand) are attracted to prostitution networks. Many boys are also targeted.
They are usually from ethnic minorities or trafficked from neighboring countries. There are about 35 thousand street children and 5 million children involved in child labor.
REFUGEES IN THAILAND
Thailand is not a signatory to international treaties that recognize and protect refugees. Consequently, the government considers refugees to be “illegal migrants”: they are not citizens, they do not have access to health, employment, or education. Even those born in Thai territory (there are refugee camps over 30 years old) do not have their citizenship recognized and must live exclusively in refugee camps, without the right to work or even to leave. Those who choose to live and work outside the fields are considered illegal and highly susceptible to arrest and deportation. Without government assistance and employment opportunities, they depend entirely on social organizations for food and other basic resources.
It is estimated that there are now more than 130,000 refugees in Thailand.
Most refugees live in camps located near the Myanmar border. They are of ethnic minorities persecuted in the neighboring country, who crossed the border in search of shelter. Among them the Karen and Karenni, with a large number of Christians. There are also the Rohingyas, a majority Muslim ethnicity, born in Myanmar who, in addition to not being recognized as citizens, have been experiencing enormous persecution and forced exodus for many years, displacing more than 1 million people.
ABUNA IN THAILAND
José Prado, our founder, on one of his visits to refugees trapped in Bangkok.
For these and other reasons, since 2018 ABUNA has been present in Thailand, helping, supporting, and welcoming refugees in vulnerable situations, mainly women and girls, the most vulnerable among the vulnerable.
Among those we have served are Pakistani Christians, persecuted in their country on account of their religion, and that they had to leave their family and country to protect their lives. Many of them have refugee status recognized by UNHCR but are still targeted by the immigration police and end up being arrested at the “Immigration Detention Center” in Bangkok, a place known for its unhealthy conditions. It is not uncommon for entire families to be arrested, including children.