The majority of the Burmese migrant workers in Ranong, Thailand, are from the Mon ethnic group. They work mostly in fishing, construction, rubber plantations or massage parlours. Although their wages are lower than the prevailing wages for Thai workers, they still earn more in Ranong than in Myanmar.
Looked down upon by the local Thais, the Burmese migrant workers remain vulnerable as long as they are unable to receive fair and adequate earnings. Most of these migrant families live in poor squalid conditions, lacking water and with no proper sanitation.
Besides that, many obstacles remain for migrant children to attend Thai schools, including the high cost of school fees, lack of Thai language skills, the discretion of schools to refuse admission to Burmese students, resistance among migrants to losing their cultural identity, and fear of arrest and deportation.
In 2002, JRS Thailand built and maintained community-based schools, supported teachers’ salaries, provided school uniforms, books and sports equipment, and awarded scholarships to outstanding Burmese students to study in Thai schools. This project, known as the Southern Border Programme, has been in operation till present. JRS also supported six learning centres (for children aged 5–14 years old) with a total of 1,200 students.