A glimpse into the the lives of the migrants

Education Knows No Border

UNICEF Thailand
A 5 portrait photos of 5 migrant children and parents
UNICEF Thailand
10 August 2020

Suthida Lungkoo, Prathom 5 (5th grade), Pa Pao Mobile School, Muang, Chiang Mai

I was born in Shan State, Myanmar. I’m 14 years old. I moved to Chiang Mai with my parents when I was 11. After three years of living in Chiang Mai, my Thai language is improving and becoming communicable.

My daily routine starts very early in the morning. I wake up at around 6 am in the morning, prepare breakfast for the whole family, and then get ready to school at 7 am. After my school finishes at around 3.30 pm, I walk to the restaurant where I earn 300 baht a day from serving and cleaning the tables from 4 pm till 4 am.

I get only about two-hour sleep a night but I don’t feel tired or sleepy at school. My exam result isn’t that bad either. I came number 4 out of 21 students in the class.

A photo of Suthida Lungkoo in her classroom.
UNICEF Thailand

Everyone in the family has to work because we need to pay rent. My elder siblings also work as construction workers in the city. All of us, seven people, live in a 16-sqm apartment near Muang Mai Market.

I want to stay here in Thailand and become a teacher. If I were in Shan State, I could only have studied until Prathom 5 (5th Grade). Here, I can also do a lot more activities with my friends. Back at home, there’s not much for us to do.

I don’t want to go back home because of education. However, I’ve missed my grandmother and home a lot. But a trip for the whole family, around 20,000 to 30,000 baht, to visit home via Mae Sai border is too much for us. My parents have returned to visit my grandmother once, but the whole family can’t afford that yet.

Note: The interview was conducted in Thai.


Jing Lungsa, 27-year-old father of a third grader in Buak Krok Noi School, Muang, Chiang Mai

I fled my homeland, Shan State, when my son was only six months old because I couldn’t see any future there. About eight years ago, I came to Chiang Mai through Mae Sai border when I was conscripted, due to regular clashes in my homeland. But after first five years in Chiang Mai, I did not only find myself a secure job as a locksmith, but also a better opportunity for education for my son. I decided to go back and bring him here when he was three.

Back home, we’ve to pay around 500,000 kyat (around 10,000 baht) per semester for an education that’s irrelevant to the contemporary job market. I didn’t even know that standard education was free for every child in Thailand, but I chose the MEP (mini English Programme) for my son although it costs us 6,500 baht a semester. It’s worth investing for my son.

A photo of Jing Lungsa in front of a building.
UNICEF Thailand

Growing up here, my son’s mother tongue is Thai language. He is eight and in Prathom 3 (3rd grade), and can now read and write better Thai than I do. However, I still am better in speaking and writing Tai Yai language, though. Fortunately, spoken language of Tai Yai and Thai is very similar so he could understand his relatives more easily.

I don’t know where life will lead us to. I only hope the work permit for migrants remain the same so my passport can be renewed every four years and my work permit every two years. I’ll do my best to stay in Thailand so my son will be with me and get the relevant education for his future.

I can understand if he doesn’t want to return home in Shan State in the future. There’s not much for us, especially him. There’s always war and conscription over there. The situation will not change in the near future.

Note: The interview was conducted in Thai.


Maytawee (Nang Mya Oo), 17 years old, Prathom 1 (1st grade), Pa Pao Mobile School, Muang, Chiang Mai

My parents have been working as cleaners at a hospital in Chiang Mai for 10 years. I’ve been living in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, with my grandparents and a 15-year-old brother. But he didn’t want to come to Thailand.

I came to Chiang Mai five months ago after I had finished my highschool in Taunggyi. I was immediately admitted to Pa Pao Mobile School and I’m now attending Prathom 1 (1st grade).

A photo of Maytawee standing in her class
UNICEF Thailand

However, I didn’t plan to stay in Thailand. I came here only for language courses. I could speak Tai Yai, Myanmar and English. I’m now learning Thai here [Pa Pao Mobile School], English at Burma Study Centre after school, and Mandarin on Sundays.

I want to be an engineer. So I’ll go back to Taunggyi in four months (around the end of 2019) to take entrance exam into faculty of engineering. I wanted to be able to speak Thai because it will enable me to find a better job in the future.

Note: The interview was conducted in Thai.


Buapad Lungsor, Mattayom 1 (7th grade), Buak Krok Noi School

I had to move from my old school in Saraphi because my parents quit their poorly-paid job as broom makers to become cleaners at a shopping mall in Muang Chiang Mai. My family first relocated to Chiang Mai when I was two years old because my parents said they couldn’t make enough for a living. I barely remember anything about Myanmar.

When moving to this area, I’d like to take the exam twice to be able to get into Prathom 3 (3rd grade) at Buak Krok Noi School. I didn’t learn much when I was attending a previous school in Saraphi; I couldn’t read or write properly.

The first semester here was tough for me because I couldn’t catch up with the class. But I was lucky that my Thai language teacher, Miss Wanpen, noticed my shortcoming at the time.

During the next several months, I had two one-on-one sessions per day, 30 minutes each during lunchtime and after school every day. Miss Wanpen taught me Thai alphabets and vowels, and how to scramble words through different types of games. 

A photo of Buapad Lungsor sitting on a chair in the school cafeteria.
UNICEF Thailand

It was fun and my Thai improved so much that my GPA gradually increased from a little above 2.00 to almost 3.00 in the second term. Since then, I got nothing else but 4.00 in my Prathom 4 to 6. Last year, my ONET (Ordinary National Education Test) score for Thai subject was 70 while some of my Thai classmates managed only at 40. My ONET score for science was also 70.

Many asked why I didn’t go to Yupparaj School this year because it’s a better school. I think I enjoy the friendship and schooling here. However, I’ll try to apply for Chiang Mai Christian School for high school level because I like their school activities.

I want to study Business Administration in college because I want to have a business here. A pet café where young people can hang out and enjoy drinks and playing with pets is a good idea.

Note: The interview was conducted in Thai.


Ing Lunglu, 30 years old mother, and Pongsri Lunglu 10 years old daughter, Prathom 2 (2nd grade) Pa Bong School, Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai

My daughter never went to school before until two years ago. I was convinced that my daughter goes to Pa Bong School when a group of teachers came to us a few years ago. I want her to be able to read and write so she can get a better job than picking chilli like me right now. She wants to be a teacher.

Every morning, the school bus [actually a pick-up truck modified with three rows of seats for school children] will pick her up from the main road to go to school and send her home in the afternoon, while I’m in the field for work. At school, she also is given lunch and milk every day. 

A photo of Pongsri (on the right) and her mother, Ing Lunglu (on the left).
UNICEF Thailand

I can read and write Tai Yai a little, but my daughter can’t. How can I teach her the language? Also, I can’t read or write any Thai at all. My spoken language is just enough to communicate. My daughter’s Thai is much better.

We moved to this chilli farm [about 52km outside Muang district] about four years ago. I left my old strawberry-picking job in Huay Sam Sop near Samoeng district about four years ago because I didn’t make enough to eat.

I want to stay here as long as I can because there’s nothing more than growing corn, peanuts and rice for family consumption in our small town in Shan State.
We will never go back to Burma (Note: the interviewee used “Burma”, not Myanmar.) if my daughter can be a teacher here in Thailand.

Note: The interview was conducted in Thai, with some help of a school teacher from Pa Bong School.



These inspiring young people’s access to education is supported through a partnership between the European Union and UNICEF.

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNICEF and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.