Thai Education Ministry withdraws funding for non-Thai children

A civil society group has pointed out that the Thai authorities’ policy to provide financial support for the education of only children of Thai nationals is a violation of children's rights.    

On Monday, 28 September 2015, the Migrant Working Group (MWG), a civil society organisation for migrant workers in Thailand, organised a seminar on loopholes in the Thai educational system which exclude children without Thai nationality, who are mostly children of migrant workers from neighbouring countries, some of whom are stateless.

The seminar was organised to discuss in particular the latest policy of the Ministry of Education, which was announced in late August 2015, to give per capita financial support to children who are studying in private schools. However, children without Thai citizenship will not be included in the scheme.

Prior to the enactment of the new policy, the Thai government provided minimal support for stateless and migrant workers’ children by allocating primary education funds to public and private schools on a per capita basis. However, the new primary education support policy has cancelled such funding.         

During the discussion at Student Christian Centre (SCC) in central Bangkok, Father Rangsiphon Plienphan, Secretary of the Catholic Social Commission of Nakhon Sawan Province, who has been active in providing education for underprivileged and non-Thai children, said that the Thai education system is still inaccessible to children of migrant workers and stateless children.

He added that although Thailand ratified the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1992, the country has failed to provide a ‘good education’ for stateless and other underprivileged non-Thai children living in the country.

According to MWG, with this policy, many private charity schools which have been providing education for underprivileged children without Thai citizenship will be short of support from the Thai state and many such children will no longer be able to study.

Surapong Kongchantuk, Chairman of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's Human Rights Subcommittee on Ethnic Minorities, pointed out that the new policy of the Education Ministry to withdraw financial support for children without national identification cards is in fact against the consensus of the 2005 cabinet.

He mentioned that the Thai authorities must revoke the current policy and restore the previous one of continuing support for non-Thai children to go to school.  

Moreover, the Chairman of the Lawyers Council said that unlike the previous policy, where only specific age groups of migrant and stateless children were supported through primary school funding, funds should be given to all age groups, because many such children tend start primary school much later than the normal age in the country.

The MWG recently submitted a letter to Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, the Education Minister, and to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry against the implementation of the policy to withdraw primary school funding for non-Thai children, but there has not yet been any response from the authorities.

According to Ramajitti Institute, a Thai non-profit organization which conducts research on children, youth and education, Thailand is home to about 250,000-300,000 undocumented migrant and stateless children, many of whom are excluded from formal primary schooling.