Water Management in ThailandThailand is a country known for its many wondrous sights, from its lush beaches to its luxurious temples that scatter the country. Despite these amazing locations that attract tourists is a lesser-known but just as impressive fact. Thailand is currently improving water and sanitation for the benefit of its people. The government in Thailand understands the need for Thai people to have better access to clean water and sanitation. According to a joint report released by the United Nations (U.N.) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, Thailand has been able to provide better sanitation for 93% of its population. Additionally, improving water management in Thailand has led to 96% of citizens having reliable drinking water. These results show that the government of Thailand takes water quality and improved sanitation seriously.

Water Management Challenges in Thailand

What makes improving water and sanitation in Thailand difficult is the current challenges of droughts and floods. Flooding takes place in Thailand quite often during the monsoon season when the country receives heavy amounts of rain. Additionally, the overflowing of dams during heavy rains also contributes to flooding.

The government of Thailand plans to deal with these challenges by implementing water management projects in the country’s 25 river basins. The government will work with the communities that live in these areas to prevent further droughts and floods.

The Thai government also plans on making changes to the infrastructure of the country. These changes include improving the transportation system of water throughout the country. It plans on creating more inland and coastal ports to help further this goal and make Thailand a transportation hub.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6)

Thailand is strongly committed to SDG 6 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose of SDG 6 is to help countries around the world improve water and sanitation. The U.N. notes that issues that come from lack of water resources and sanitation could displace 700 million people by 2030.

Fortunately, Thailand is already delivering on its commitment to SDG 6. The Thai Government’s 2017 Voluntary National Review reports that due to Thai policies and strategies, close to 100% of households have safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Another benefit of clean water and sanitation is that the infant mortality rate has decreased in Thailand. Thanks to improved water and sanitation, people are now less likely to contract a water-borne disease. The city of Bangkok has especially reaped some of the benefits from Thailand’s commitment to SDG 6. Clean and safe water is now so abundant that the average citizen in Bangkok consumes roughly 340.2 liters of water each day, which is more than the overall average of 277.6 liters.

Thanks to the Thai government’s commitment to improving water and sanitation, most of the people of the country are experiencing several benefits that go beyond simply quenching people’s thirst. However, the small number of people who still struggle with water and sanitation need prioritizing. Efficiently managing water and committing to achieving all of the SDG 6 indicators will ensure sustainable progression and development in Thailand.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Statelessness in Thailand
Thailand has one of the world’s largest populations of stateless people with nearly 500,000 registered in 2020. NGOs and human rights activists believe the true number is much higher at up to 2 million. Statelessness refers to those lacking recognition of citizenship by any country. Without having a nationality, people lack access to basic necessities such as healthcare, education and social security. Here is some information about statelessness in Thailand.

Why Are People Stateless?

The cultural heterogeneity and rugged border regions of Thailand have long allowed indigenous cultures to live outside of the modern nation-state framework. Some stateless groups in Thailand’s border regions actively avoided becoming part of the Thai nation-state. They remained separate to maintain their own unique cultural customs. Discriminatory practices toward ethnic minorities by the ethnic Thais have also played a role in statelessness in Thailand.

Ethnic groups such as the Hmong, Akha, Karen and others are traditionally semi-nomadic and live throughout different Southeast Asian nations. They do not identify with one specific nation. In modern times, borders have become more solidified. The relative autonomy of indigenous cultures has largely existed within international borders. For indigenous children born within the Thai borders, their citizenship ties to their parents. These parents often lack documentation to prove that they were technically born in Thailand, which renders children stateless.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Other stateless people in Thailand are refugees from Burmese states just across the border. These refugees have endured decades of armed conflict against the central government. More than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, Shan and other groups arrived in the 1980s and 1990s to refugee camps along the Thai border. They have largely remained in these camps due to instability at home and the Thai government’s unwillingness to grant citizenship. These refugees also lack Burmese citizenship in many cases. With increased political and social instability following the recent 2021 military coup, this protracted refugee crisis will likely persist.

There are also stateless people that others know as the Moken or ‘Sea Gypsies’ in the south of Thailand, along with asylum seekers originating from dozens of countries in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Thai authorities struggle to formulate clear strategies on how to process citizenship requests for the many existing situations. Some can lay claim to ancestry within the modern Thai borders that stretch back hundreds of years. Others are more recent arrivals in need of human rights assistance.

Risk Factors of Statelessness in Thailand

There are innumerable challenges for stateless people in Thailand. Without having Thai citizenship, stateless people cannot travel freely across international borders. As a result, they fear detention and arrest while traveling within Thailand. There are also barriers to accessing legitimate jobs. This puts some at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking in trying to access decent livelihoods.

For young people, the lack of a decent education is a major concern. The Thai government has made an effort to educate all children within its borders, but stateless students are not able to access scholarships for higher education. Lack of access to decent health care and legal representation are other barriers facing stateless people.

Solutions

Since 2016, Thailand has joined one of the central goals of the UNHCR to end statelessness worldwide by 2024 in its #IBelong campaign. The country has taken great efforts to reconfigure citizenship laws to allow tens of thousands to access Thai citizenship in recent years. Leading up to joining the #IBelong campaign, Thailand had loosened citizenship restrictions in 2008 with its amendment of the Thai Nationality Law. Although implementation has been slow, the processing of citizenship claims have ramped up with the help of UNHCR.

There have been highly publicized events uncovering the plight of stateless people, which include the Thai Cave Rescue in 2018, in which several of the rescued soccer team members and their coach were stateless at the time. The Thai government streamlined its citizenship procedures shortly after the rescue operation. The players and their coach had previously not been able to travel freely to play in games outside of their local area.

Increased Awareness

While the sheer number of stateless people in Thailand may make the 2024 deadline to end statelessness difficult to reach, there is more general awareness of the issue. That offers some hope in granting citizenship to large numbers in this population. Much of the recent stateless population is due to conflict in Myanmar, and others should commend Thailand for allowing refugees to remain in relative safety within its borders.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

The Feminization of Poverty in Thailand
Feminization of poverty refers to the higher likelihood that women will experience poverty than men. This rate is disproportionately high, even in industrialized nations where people encourage climbing the corporate ladder. The feminization of poverty in Thailand is a key issue for the country, and other gender inequality issues exacerbate it.

Gender Inequality in Poverty

Of all of the people living in poverty in the world, 70% are women. For these women, poverty is more than just a lack of money. It also includes not having access to necessary resources, such as healthcare, education, food and housing.

Poor households are also susceptible to chronic poverty. Chronic poverty refers to when households are stuck in a cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape. For example, having an uncertain source of income instead of a stable one is difficult to overcome, especially when society deems women less than men. Feminization of poverty in Thailand and other places not only affects the particular individual in poverty but also generations to come. The cycle of poverty is incredibly difficult to break, which can lead women and their families to feel hopeless.

The Wage Gap in Thailand

Around the world, women earn less than men for doing the same work. The wage gap in Thailand was 2.5% in 2015. Unfortunately, in 2020, this gap increased to 10.94%. Further statistics from 2020 show that the average number of unpaid work hours per day is 3.2 for women and 0.9 for men. Additionally, the average number of total work hours for women and men differs by 0.9.

Furthermore, Thai women do not receive enough access to economic resources and financial services. Therefore, women do not possess the same amount of financial and digital literacy as men, resulting in underdeveloped technology skills. This puts women at a disadvantage when searching for jobs. Because of this, women in Thailand do not have equal access to markets.

As demonstrated in the unpaid work statistics, women bear the burden of unpaid responsibilities at home, such as cleaning and cooking, due to societal gender roles. This unpaid work results in women having less time to spend with their family and community. Women are also more likely to prioritize spending money on their children’s well-being, including health and education. The effects of the wage gap on working mothers often include living in poor conditions, lacking access to healthy foods and having fewer opportunities for their children. As a result, many women face increased levels of stress and unhappiness.

The Good News

The first step toward gender equality in Thailand occurred in 1933 when the government granted Thai women the right to vote. Thailand was one of the first Asian countries to give women this opportunity. The current Constitution of Thailand states that both women and men have equal rights.

The role of Thai women in the workplace has increased in recent years. Approximately 17.5 million women work in workplaces throughout Thailand. According to research from Grant Thornton International in 2019, women held 33% of all CEO and managing director jobs in the private sector in Thailand. Moreover, 20% of directors in Thailand were women according to the 2019 Corporate Governance Report.

Women have more protections than before and additional opportunities to advance their careers. Thailand now has anti-discrimination rules in hiring, rules against workplace sexual harassment and equal pay for equal work, which improves the feminization of poverty.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

Libraries Helping Communities Around the World
Libraries are often the cornerstone of communities. Libraries offer people free internet, resources, events, workshops and books. These resources allow many people to pursue education. In the United States, more people have easy access to libraries than in developing nations. However, there have been libraries helping communities all over the world find creative ways to access the resources a library can provide.

The Zambia Library Service

The Zambia Library Service aims to bring more provincial and public libraries to the country, to improve the libraries in schools and colleges, and to provide more digital resources to educators. This library now has a collection of more than 60,000 books, despite struggling to receive government support. The library service started six provincial libraries that serve about 400,000 individual members and 850,000 institutions every year. Furthermore, it established the Zambia Knowledge Center in 2011 to help provide Zambia’s educators and students with a wealth of online sources from around the globe.

The library continues to advocate for the expansion of copyright laws so that more people can receive access to videos, e-books, audiobooks, journals and websites. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zambia Library Service aims to provide new opportunities for community members to engage with the library. It hosts movie nights, events for International Girl Child Day and a Girl’s Club.

Bangkok’s The Library Train Project

Police Major General Jarumporn Suramanee started The Little Train Project in Bangkok in 1999. He converted two old train cars into a library and education center. These cars have a school area for classroom lessons and a library with books, computers and a television. Suramanee initiated this project because the number of homeless children in the city had been steadily increasing. As such, it was designed to give children an opportunity to receive an education, a place to stay during the day and options for a better future.

Bangkok’s library train features lessons in typical academic subjects and classes on topics such as manners, sports and gardening. Though children are not required to attend class, many enjoy coming to the library to use the resources it has to offer. Furthermore, the library has aided its patrons in other ways, such as helping individuals find a job or helping homeless children find families who want to take them in. It is also intentionally located in the park so it is as accessible as possible.

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos was a boat that aimed to give books and other cultural resources to small, rural, fjord communities. The ship visited 150 small villages in less than a month after it was built in 1959. The boat was designed to hold 6,000 books, but it often circulated 20,000 books at a time. Furthermore, the ship would often bring other events such as concerts and plays—usually the only cultural events these villages would see in a year.

Unfortunately, The Bokbåten Epos shut down in 2020. This upset many Norwegian citizens. However, the government hopes to find a solution that is more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and that can access more areas. The Bokbåten Epos could also serve as a model for other libraries committed to helping communities.

Zimbabwe’s Donkey-Drawn Libraries

A nonprofit called Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) started a mobile library project to help provide more resources to Zimbabwe’s rural schools in 1990. These schools struggled to be acknowledged and receive the needed funding. These 15 mobile libraries can hold up to 1,000 books each. Additionally, four donkeys pull these books along to increase the distance the mobile libraries can travel.

These mobile libraries work with communities to tailor services to people’s needs, such as using bikes to deliver books or making more stops if there are elderly patrons or patrons with disabilities. Additionally, some of these carts have solar electricity and internet access that allow access to e-books and educational resources, as well as make it possible to hold movie events. These mobile libraries have helped nearly 1,600 people and have become an integral part of communities.

Many people who live in impoverished, rural areas do not have access to books or other services that libraries provide. These innovative libraries are focused on helping impoverished communities and have successfully helped thousands of people. Efforts like these around the world have the power to transform education in developing countries.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Thai Fishing Industry
In recent weeks, Thailand experienced a new wave of COVID-19 cases originating from a large seafood market near Bangkok. The Prime Minister of Thailand wasted no time in blaming the outbreak on human smuggling networks and illegal immigrants. Most of those working at this particular market are from neighboring Myanmar. This ongoing outbreak brings Thailand’s fishing industry back into focus. The industry faces international pressure to address findings of horrific working conditions, unfair wages and forced labor. This article discusses the importance of the Thai fishing industry, the human rights abuses uncovered in recent years and what some are doing to address these issues.

Thai Fishing Industry

The Thai fishing industry exports more than $6 billion worth of products annually and employs more than 800,000 people. It is the world’s third-largest seafood exporter and the world’s leading exporter of shrimp. The industry came under fire in the E.U. in 2014 due to reports uncovering widespread forced labor, worker abuses and environmental degradation in the industry.

Burmese immigrants represent a majority of those working in the Thai fishing industry, followed by a smaller percentage of Thais, Cambodians and Laotians. Workers on fishing vessels are exclusively men, while men and women each work in the seafood processing sector. There is a mixture of regular and irregular workers, which makes ascertaining the true number of immigrants in the fishing industry difficult. About 3 million labor migrants legally live in Thailand and an estimated two million more are undocumented.

Poor Working Conditions

Working conditions on Thai fishing vessels are notoriously challenging. In multiple reports, workers discuss working 18-20 hour days with inadequate food, water and medical supplies. Between 14% and 18% of migrants report being victims of forced labor. Among these victims of human trafficking, over half report seeing a coworker killed in front of them. Threats from employers and beatings are common, along with working at sea for years at a time without being allowed to leave the vessel. These conditions affect all nationalities in the Thai fishing industry, but undocumented immigrants are the most vulnerable to mistreatment.

Solutions

Although much work is necessary to address issues in the Thai fishing industry, Thailand has been largely receptive to suggestions that organizations such as the ILO and other national and international human rights NGOs have made. The government has improved legal frameworks and compliance measures for fishing companies. Additionally, wages have increased and housing conditions are improving, according to respondents in a recent ILO survey released in 2020.

Specific laws that have gone into place include the elimination of recruitment fees that workers pay, banning the practice of employers withholding identity documents from workers and banning child labor in the fishing industry. Going forward, regional compliance will be essential in enforcing these legal frameworks. Thailand is attempting to set that precedent in the ASEAN region. In response, the E.U. lifted its “yellow card” rating for the industry and continues to accept seafood imports.

The Labor Protection Network

For more than 15 years, the Labor Protection Network (LPN) has been spearheading efforts to clean up the Thai fishing industry. LPN conducts direct action raids on illegal fishing boats, provides short- and long-term shelter for victims and educates children in its centers. Additionally, LPN has brought international attention to the industry through its advocacy campaigns. A notable part of these efforts is the appearance of co-founder Patima Tungpuchayakul in the documentary “Ghost Fleet.” In 2017, Tungpuchayakul received a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in human rights.

Each year, LPN also provides legal assistance to more than 3,000 migrants. It provides assistance in Thai, Burmese, Khmer or Lao, depending on migrants’ needs. Victims of human trafficking in Thailand have a right to government protection and legal assistance. LPN plays a crucial role in identifying victims of human trafficking that grants these protections, as the Thai authorities sometimes struggle to identify victims through its enforcement procedures.

Through the work of the government, LPN and other NGOs, the Thai fishing industry is improving its standards to meet international demands. With this spotlight on the human rights issues involved in the industry, funding and monitoring remain critical to building on current progress.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Thailand
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and many tourists know it as an exciting, vibrant and relaxing vacation destination. Even though many people live in high-quality and high-income housing, others live in poor-quality housing without running water or electricity. Due to urbanization without necessary accommodations to support the needs of low-income residents, slum and squatter settlements emerged with 84% of slum settlements residing in Thailand. The Baan Mankong Program addresses this issue and helps poor communities in Bangkok improve their housing and their relationship with the local government. Here is some information about how the Baan Mankong Program is aiding poverty eradication in Thailand.

What is the Baan Mankong Program?

The Baan Mankong Program is a secure housing program from the Community Organizations Development Institute in Thailand. CODI started in 1992 with the purpose of learning about the lives of the poor and encouraging a partnership with its local governments to improve the living conditions of the poor. Launched in 2003, the program emerged under the National Housing Authority with a grant of $34 million U.S. dollars from the Thai government to give loans to organizations devoted to providing housing for poor communities in Bangkok.

Why is Secure Housing Important?

An increase in population and rural-urban migration contribute to the unplanned global expansion of urban settlements. Urbanization can bring work opportunities, access to health services and better education, but poor communities still face inadequate housing and access to basic services. Therefore, increasing urbanization should focus on how to improve the living conditions of poor urban families. Improved living conditions will not only provide housing, but also improve health, and reduce injuries and premature deaths.

How has the Baan Mankong Program Helped?

The government funds through CODI go toward directly supporting the communities and aiding poverty eradication in Thailand. Through improvements in housing, the environment and other services, the citizens of the poor urban communities control where the money goes. In addition to financial control, people of the communities are able to work closely with local governments, professionals and universities offering multiple opportunities to evaluate housing and ways it can continue to improve. Communities also used the Baan Mankong Program to get drainage systems, communal septic tanks for sanitation, better connections for water and electricity supply and grey-water treatment units.

Its Impact and Growth

The program empowers the communities involved to plan, apply and improve the projects themselves based on the needs of the community. By 2009, the program existed in 260 cities in Thailand with money for 80,000 housing projects receiving approval, and communities implementing 1,033 housing projects that provide decent and secure housing for 104,000 poor families. The program not only helped the regions of Bangkok, but it also reached 320 cities/districts across 72 provinces and helped over 90,000 households with $191 million U.S. dollars. Thailand is one of a couple of countries that established a nation-wide effort to improve poor housing and what makes The Baan Mankong Program stand out is the focus of the community which strengthens the voices of the citizens in poor communities.

Supporting communities in need of quality housing is important to poverty eradication in Thailand and requires attention from the government, members of the low-income community, and members from high-income communities. The success of programs like the Baan Mankong Program not only depends on money but community support encouraging spaces to learn from one another.

– Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Thailand
Mental health has been a hot topic recently, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thailand is one country that has been struggling with mental health. As of 2019, Thailand has had a population of about 70 million with a substantial number experiencing mental illness. Here is some information about mental health in Thailand.

The Situation

According to Deputy Health Minister Dr. Surawith Konsomboon, the most common diseases in Thailand are psychosis, anxiety disorders, depression and apoplexy. In a Department of Mental Health study from 2012, Konsomboon found that about 20% of the Thai population has struggled with some type of mental illness. Additionally, projections have determined that this number will grow each year.

Health Care System

Thailand’s current mental health policy emerged in 1995, which includes advocacy, promotion, treatment and rehabilitation. Its plan was to promote maintaining one’s mental health and preventing future mental health issues while forming new treatment services.

Thailand’s universal health coverage started in 2002. The intent was for care to be affordable, yet many extra costs exist with certain treatments. The government and private and non-governmental sectors now provide psychiatric services to give services for mental health in Thailand.

However, many hospitals are facing issues with having too many patients, a lack of staff members and under-financing from their government. This creates difficulties in providing quality care to their patients and having enough funding to do their job effectively.

Young People and Mental Health Discussions

According to interviews that UNICEF performed, adolescents feel that mental health in Thailand does not receive the attention it requires. Many people do not have access to services and information that they need in order to understand and manage their emotions and thoughts. This creates many difficulties including negative perceptions and stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

The risks of developing mental health struggles are especially high for those who are facing poverty, discrimination and violence. UNICEF explained how adolescents wish that there was an open space with their families and friends to talk about the things that they are struggling with instead of bottling their feelings up and keeping it to themselves.

These feelings of stress and depression have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people are fearful of getting the virus, stressed about the transition to online school and work and loneliness from social distancing. This is especially true for those who do not have a solid financial situation and are worried about their employment.

Contributing Factors

A wide gap exists between the rich and the poor in Thailand, contributing to societal pressures and judgment. Living in poverty has a negative effect on one’s mental health, as financial crises can lead to an increase in stress regarding supporting one’s family.

High expectations in Thai culture have also added pressure to the lives of young people, which can weigh them down as time goes on. Feeling the need to be perfect in college and supporting one’s family can be a key part of poor mental health in Thailand.

On the bright side, Thailand has been working to reduce its rate of poverty over the past few decades. In 1988, over 65% of people were living in poverty. As of 2018, this rate decreased to under 10%. This process is still in effect, and the number continues to decrease.

Progress

Many causes and influences have contributed to struggles regarding mental health in Thailand, including societal pressures and poverty. Adolescents feel this pressure through their experiences in school and work as they are trying to build a life for themselves while making their family proud. However, the Ministry of Public Health has goals to expand its mental health services. It hopes to increase children’s emotional intelligence and decrease the suicide rate in Thailand through its efforts.

Over the past two decades, the Ministry of Public Health has emphasized developing systematic and effective technology which will be able to improve health programs. Thailand is also incorporating mental health care into community services, prison services and psychiatric rehabilitation. The efforts in laying down these foundations have been raising the quality of services that the country provides.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

The Connection Between Prison and Poverty
In many societies around the world, mass incarceration is rampant and disproportionately affects those living in poverty. In 2013, reports determined that more than 10 million impoverished people have undergone incarceration. This has led to a dampening of upward social mobility because even after prison convicts face the stigma of being a former felon, individuals who believed that their best option to rise from poverty was a life of crime will likely return to a community where their best survival option is criminal. A connection between prison and poverty emerges in developing countries where cyclical policies keep people at the bottom of the social hierarchy with no way out.

The Connection Between Prison and Poverty

Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston studied this prison-poverty connection. In 2018, he released his findings in a report that documented how overly harsh government policy can have a pronounced effect on impoverished offenders. Alston notes, “so-called fines and fees are piled up so that low-level infractions become immensely burdensome, a process that affects only the poorest members of society, who pay the vast majority of such penalties.” If someone fails to pay their debts, the government will often place restrictions on their driver’s license, making recidivism far more likely.

Pre-Trial Detention in Brazil

Brazil ranks as the country with the third-highest rate of incarceration, behind China and the U.S. Its prison population rises above 755,000. Like the United States, the developing country engages in pre-trial detention. Pretrial detention is the act of holding a person suspected of a crime without rights until a court date. However, poor people often stay in detention facilities longer than the wealthy. This is because they cannot afford the exorbitant cash bail that the wealthy can. A 2010 study found that hundreds stayed in jail several years past their planned release. Additionally, “irregularities” lead to the mistaken detainment of over 16,000 Brazilians. Pretrial detention inmates currently overcrowd Brazil’s prisons, which make up nearly a third of the inmate population.

The War on Drugs in Thailand

With the number of people incarcerated at 344,161, Thailand ranks as number six in the world when it comes to mass incarceration. Similar to Brazil, the country has its own struggles with prison and poverty. An unexpected explanation for Thailand’s overcrowded prisons is the American War on Drugs. In 1997, a financial crash forced many Thai people into unemployment. This economic despair led to an increase in the number of drug users. In 2003, the government chose to heavily police these now-impoverished citizens. While Thailand has backed away from violent crackdowns, the majority of arrests are still primarily drug offenses. To evade time in prison, wealthier people can pay the $1,300 in drug charges. In 2016, only 27% of first-time offenders managed to avoid recidivism, as those in poverty could not afford bail.

Penal Reform International

While the connection between prison and poverty seems deep-rooted, it is still capable of transformation. Organizations have worked to alleviate the flaws of prison systems throughout the globe through educational, political and relief efforts to break the cycle. Penal Reform International is one such group.

Founded in 1989 with a focus on rehabilitation, Penal Reform International (PRI) works with the United Nations and other organizations to advocate for fair treatment of people in the criminal justice system. PRI observes detention centers and offers solutions to systemic abuse. For example, PRI studied the lives of the female offender population in the country of Georgia. The report found that they detained over a third for non-violent drug offenses. About 40% of those questioned committed crimes for financial reasons, while 80% were also mothers. Among those who received a release from prison, more than half had trouble finding employment due to their record, while most never obtained any kind of rehabilitative assistance. Between 2016 and 2019, PRI created a project providing services to Georgian women prisoners. Services included legal aid, counseling, business grants and healthcare assistance. Respondents expressed that the project has greatly improved their mental wellbeing, preparedness and self-esteem.

Prison and poverty can intertwine when the prison system values money over people. Nevertheless, learning about these issues surrounding developing countries can shed light on the flaws in one’s own.

– Zachary Sherry
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Thailand
Like many other countries, Thailand has been working for the past several years to provide rights, facilities and access to people with disabilities and people living in poverty. In the last three decades, the poverty level in Thailand has reduced from 65% to 10%. Part of this reduction has occured through programs such as The Government Welfare Registration Programme, established in 2016. This program gives registered citizens over the age of 18 earning less than 100,000 Bhat (roughly over $3,000) a monthly fund between Bt1,200 -Bt 1800 (the price correlates with where the citizen lives) to access public transportation and buy basic needs. Throughout the ’90s and the 2000s, the government has instated more rights and organizations for those with disabilities to help guarantee them work, welfare and accessibility in government and public buildings. However, a correlation between disability and poverty in Thailand still exists.

However, poverty is starting to rise in Thailand due to the country’s economic growth slowing down and the environmental challenges that are affecting citizen’s livelihood and homes. And there are still some cultural misconceptions in Thailand about disabilities that can create barriers to those with disabilities. So, even though things are improving, it is still incredibly important to advocate for those living with disability and poverty in Thailand.

Current Statistics on Disability and Poverty in Thailand

Around 3% of Thailand’s population (a little over 2 million people) have a disability card. The top three conditions were mobility disabilities (about 50%), hearing impairments (around 18%) and visual impairments (approximately 10%). Other disabilities included physical impairments, psychological disorders, autism and learning disabilities. Nearly 52% of the disabled population of Thailand are over 60, around 42% of them are from the ages 15-60 and almost 2% are 14 years or younger.

Excluding those under school age, about 4% of Thailand’s disabled population has never had any formal education. For those who have, only around 5% of them have any kind of schooling outside of primary education. For work, only around 24% of those above 15 years old reported having employment, while about 18% reported being able to work but unemployed.

While there were no specific statistics about what percentage of people living with a disability and are in poverty in Thailand, the major reasons people found themselves under the poverty line were ill-health, job-loss or a natural disaster.

Rights and Laws for Those with Disabilities

The Thai government has set up laws and acts to make sure people living with disabilities get the rights they deserve. One of these legislations is The Persons with Disabilities Empowerment Act, which the government set up in 2007. It states that anyone who encounters limitations through an impairment has the right to receive legal or personal assistance, sign language interpreters, medical services, house modifications for better accessibility and education free of charge. They can also receive tax exemptions, cheaper public transportation feeds, loans without interest for self-employment and a monthly allowance of 800 baht.

Other Organizations and Resources

Different associations, organizations and charities have emerged within Thailand or internationally to support people with various disabilities and their work frequently involves fighting for specific laws. For example, the National Association of the Deaf of Thailand helped the government recognize Thai Sign Language as an official language in 1999.

Other organizations provide the necessary resources for those who do not have easy access to it. Handicap International has been providing free physical therapy to refugees and neighboring host villages along the border of Myanmar since 1982.

These organizations also aim to provide fun, social events that help give people with disabilities a sense of community. An example of this is The Association of the Blind which, among other things, has held an annual reading and writing in Braille contest since 2013.

Necessary Improvements

Despite government and organization efforts, work is still necessary to meet all the needs of the disabled community, especially for those living with disability and poverty in Thailand. For example, the government’s monthly fund is not enough to live on and get access to different health care services, even with the increase from 800 baht to 1,800 baht per month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the pandemic has made it more impossible for those with disabilities to live off this fund because many of them have lost their jobs, access to many health care services and any way to earn an extra income.

When it comes to other services such as employment and education, some in Thailand have a lack of cultural awareness regarding disabilities and how it can lead to discrimination. For example, studies have shown that many parents feel many mainstream teachers do not have enough specialized training to deal with children with different disabilities. Also, because many people have a more “fixed” version of what it means to have a disability, those who have a registered disability but are “able-looking” on the outside have a harder time obtaining resources or finding employment.

To improve attitudes towards disabilities, The Persons with Disabilities Empowerment Act states that it is the responsibility of The National Commission on Promotion and Development of Life Quality of Disabled Persons (which was the minister of this act) to inform individual employers and organizations of the nature of disabilities and the rights of the disabled. Regarding education, Thailand established The Education for Persons with Disabilities Act in 2008. It emphasized that education is free for those with disabilities and that they had the right to pick what institutions they choose to attend and request any accommodations to aid them on their academic journeys.

Conclusion

It is important to look back and recognize that Thailand is making progress to help the disabled community and acknowledge the people and organizations that continue to fight for the Thai people at large. However, it is also important to recognize there are still plenty of issues regarding disability and poverty in Thailand that require attention and that spreading awareness about disability and poverty is vital.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Harmless HarvestHarmless Harvest is an organic coconut brand that guarantees nonpesticide, chemical or GMO supplements in its young Nam Hom coconuts, harvested from Thailand. Known to be the first brand to introduce non-thermally pasteurized coconut water in the United States, its mission is to “create remarkable coconut products through sustainable farming practices while having a positive community impact,” says Harmless Harvest CEO, Ben Mand. Utilizing organic-certified Nam Hom coconut farms, Harmless Harvest ensures growing coconuts without “persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge.”

Fair Wages for Workers

In addition to its commitment to clean practices and natural coconut products, Harmless Harvest guarantees social accountability through its Fair for Life certification. Fair for Life certification demonstrates the organization’s efforts to provide fair wages for its workers in Thailand. Fair for Life advocates for financial resiliency for all its workers and reallocates funds to support communities of farmers to found mobile health clinics and provide dental checks and water filtration systems. The certification promises social responsibility and fair trade to all the people involved in the production, which starts with farmers that harvest in the very beginning to the consumers that take home the products. 

Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP)

In December 2020, Harmless Harvest announced its partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to introduce a new agricultural project called the Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP). This project aims to ensure a sustainable farming model with innovative coconut harvesting and the training of farmers to maximize their overall productivity. With plans to implement new regenerative farming methodology and agricultural management training for Thailand farmers, ReCAP considers many aspects of the harvesting process other than just the coconut’s quality.

Sustainable Farming and Education for Farmers

The main aspect of the project is to reinvent coconut farming and produce more eco-friendly efficiency. Harmless Harvest aims to implement new sustainable coconut harvesting practices by utilizing cover crops, which then increases the soil’s water absorption and reduces soil erosion during heavy rainfall. Other methods such as intercropping, bee-keeping and organic inputs were included in the coconut farm regeneration in efforts to promote clean farming.

The project also seeks to provide farmers with education in farm management and innovative agricultural practices that target longevity and resistance against climate change. By teaching farmers new strategies to increase biodiversity and resilience, sustainable coconut harvesting becomes a stepping stone to transitioning modern farming to regenerative agriculture. The brand’s overall goal is to rediscover a more environmentally sustainable and resistant farming methodology while also promoting farmers’ wages by the end of 2023.

Addressing Poverty Through Coconut Farming

Harmless Harvest’s project ReCAP shifts the coconut industry and other farm-dependent brands away from chemical-laden monoculture crop farming, which is susceptible to climate change and is inefficient environmentally. The project alleviates ecological stress and utilizes a more efficient system of production, which corresponds with Harmless Harvest’s overall mission of ethical practices. ReCAP seeks to encourage new methods of sustainable coconut harvesting and aims to increase the income of farmers by 10% or more by the end of 2023. From celebrating zero coconut waste in September 2020 to up-cycling and utilizing all parts of the coconut up to the husk, the brand continues to introduce techniques to better the planet and help farmers lift themselves out of poverty.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr