• Published Date: 14/06/2023
  • by: UNDP

The Invisible Wall: Getting To Know the Ethnic Groups and Challenges of life Through “Ethnic Youth Dialogue”

If we talk about one unique group that most people don’t have a chance to meet or talk to that much,

an ethnic group may be one of the first ones that come to mind. But, why? Even though ethnic groups may not have a stand-out or different appearance from the majority of people in Thailand, they still have more limitations in their lives, in contrast to the modernity of this society. This dialogue will invite you to learn about the way of life and the obstacles in the lives of ethnic groups.

Ethnic youth in Thailand, which are ethnic minorities, face inequality and various obstacles in accessing the rights that should be obtained from being human in the first place, from discrimination to lack of educational opportunities, employment, and medical treatment rights. Prejudice is a major problem among ethnic youth in Thailand. Although the country is ethnically diverse, there is still discrimination against people who are different from the majority. Ethnic youths often face racism and issues in communication, especially in the workplace or in school.


The disappearance of culture

Ko (figure name), an Aka youth, shared her experience during the discussion that language differences may be a challenge for some ethnic minorities. Thai is the main language of the country, but some ethnic groups may not use Thai as their first language. This may make it difficult for them to communicate with other people, access education,  and other opportunities. She told us that when she was younger, she couldn’t speak fluent Thai at the time. She attended a Thai school, which was the beginning of her discrimination experience, whether it was from friends or teachers at the school, due to the fact that she couldn’t communicate properly in Thai. After that, she tried her best to communicate in Thai all the time, and until now, she can no longer communicate in her native language very well anymore.

This indicates the result of attempting to change their cultural identity to meet Thai social values. This has led to the disappearance of native languages and cultures in the community.


Inequality in education and employment is also a major issue for ethnic minorities. This may be related to the difficulty of the acquisition of Thai nationality. Ethnic minorities and some ethnic youth may not have access to education or job opportunities as much as Thai nationals, which may limit career opportunities and make it difficult for them to establish a successful life in the future. Therefore, their dreams have been limited.


When the distance prevents you from exercising your right to support policies or representatives you need

Linked to the problem of inequality in education, it leads to other obstacles in exercising fundamental rights. “Saeng” (figure name), an ethnic participant, said that the right to vote is  not universal. The village where he lives is almost on the mountain. So, the distance makes it difficult to exercise their rights to support policies or representatives of the country. Besides that, outsiders also take advantage of the fact that ethnic people have less knowledge of this kind of information for their own benefit. The government does not see the importance of a lot of issues such as the right to obtain Thai nationality. Some groups of people have lived in Thailand for a long time but have not acquired Thai citizenship. Despite being in the area of ​​Thailand, the community is far from the city and civilization. They still have to constantly fight for the right to citizenship because it is hard to access various welfare and services without it. 

Furthermore, there is a problem with unclear address information. Although the ethnic communities have been living in Thailand for a long time, the area is far away and close to the border, making it difficult to identify their identity. They have been questioned about being a citizen of other countries such as Myanmar or Laos, resulting in the non-recognition of nationality. Today, many ethnic youths still face this obstacle.


Alternative Treatments and Access to Public Health Services 

May (figure name), an Akha youth, shared with us that in her childhood, traditional ghost beliefs played a big role in her community. Even in Christian-dominated communities like her family, traditional beliefs were influenced. Some beliefs are influenced by her own experiences, she told us that when she was young, the wounds wouldn’t heal by modern methods, but after trying the science of beliefs and healing using dirt and earthworms in conjunction with tribal rituals, the wounds were healed.  Although in the present, there are public healthcare and health services under the welfare state. Some ethnic people may still choose traditional treatment over modern science. However, some did not have a choice, they still do not have access to public health services and have not received proper support. This is due to the lack of comprehensive access to fundamental rights and still waiting for further policy change.


It is undeniable that minorities in Thailand have to face various problems, whether inequality or the right to access education and medical treatment. These problems cannot be solved without creating a support network that can help guide and promote the system of services, along with the distribution of decentralizing basic rights. It is important to support access to rights and non-discrimination and try to push toward the next goal. There are also organizations and groups that are working to support ethnic youth in Thailand and are ready to support the rights to education, to help ethnic youths to work effectively and equally. By working together, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity

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