The Shocking Truth About Refugees in Bangkok

By Mark Wiens 18 Comments

Refugees in Thailand

Dwight Turner, a long time buddy of mine and fellow Bangkok resident, started an organization a number of years ago known as In Search of Sanuk.

One of his projects includes helping (in any way possible) a number of refugee families living in Bangkok.

Refugees in Bangkok are not welcome…

…in fact, they live in fear of being arrested.

Here’s a quick video about In Search of Sanuk’s project with refugees in Bangkok. I would be grateful if you had a moment to check this out!

Thailand doesn’t officially recognize refugees, so therefore the many refugees that have ended up in Bangkok (from Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka, Congo, Somalia, Sudan) don’t actually have any legit papers.

They live in small poor condition apartments along with their families and they fear ever leaving their apartment.

A few of the families are from Sri Lanka.

After just spending a few weeks traveling through Sri Lanka, I have a bit more knowledge as to just how different Thailand is from their home country.

Sure, Sri Lanka isn’t located too far away looking at the map, but their culture and former lifestyles were extremely different.

I can only imagine fleeing to Thailand without previous notice, having to immediately start a new life in a foreign country with nothing…and not even being able to leave the tiny one bedroom apartment.

Along with Dwight, I have visited the refugee families from Sri Lanka a number of times.

They are always excited to see us, ready to talk about anything and always willing to share their small supply of food.

Their hospitality compared with how little they possess is humbling.

Anyways, as we all go about our busy day to day lives this holiday season, it’s important to remember those who are a lot less fortunate than us.

I myself nearly always take next month’s rent or even tomorrow’s dinner for granted.

But for these refugee families cooped up in their single room apartments, they don’t even know where their next month’s rent will come from, what they will eat next week, or even if they will get arrested without warning.

Refugees in Thailand

The Shocking Truth

The truth of the matter is that refugees in Bangkok are not recognized by the government but are rather considered illegal immigrants.

This means they don’t have the protection that international laws normally provide, putting their security in jeopardy.

They can be arrested at anytime and don’t have any way to support themselves financially (and they don’t have anywhere else safe they can go).

How to Help

If you are interested in learning more or would like to help by donating to refugees in Bangkok, please click here.

Also, if you have a moment we would really appreciate it if you would share this video and post to spread the message (Click the Facebook or Twitter button over on the left!).

Thank you very much and Merry Christmas!

18 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Nomadic Samuel

    10 years ago

    Mark, I’ve realized this situation for a while and it’s great that organizations are out there to help out these people. It’s difficult enough for citizens not born in a country to adapt to the different set of circumstances without having to deal with all of this.

  • patrick musoko

    10 years ago

    good work man .thanks for sharing this information with us and l think international community need to do something about it .its very sad and l will pread the infor thanks. .

  • Dallas

    10 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this. I had no idea that refugees weren’t recognized in Bangkok. Hopefully as more people hear about this, the government will change its views and provide more assistance to these people.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks for reading it and sharing it Dallas. That’s our hope as well!

  • jenjenk

    10 years ago

    there is so much need in thailand…my friends are involved with an orphanage in chiang mai to stop human trafficking. It’s always so shocking to me when I hear about the insensitivity of mankind and depravity that still abounds in the world.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to read this Jen. Yah, it’s really tough when people don’t have basic rights, like being able to safely stay somewhere (legally) without getting arrested. I definitely take some of these things for granted.

  • Laura

    10 years ago

    This is really good to know. I’m glad that Dwight and others (you as well, right?) are working here to make a difference.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Laura! It’s Dwight’s projects, and I have just helped him a few times.

  • Robert

    10 years ago

    Saw your post on Linkedin. Very well written article.
    The Thailand Government really needs to wake up and address this problem.
    I’m traveling to Bangkok in Jan 2012, so I’m sure I’ll see this problem up close and personal.
    Thanks for the info Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to read this Robert!
      Yes, it would really be great if some policies changed so that all the refugees in the region wouldn’t have to worry about daily living. Hope you have a great trip to Bangkok is Jan 2012 and thanks again for reading and sharing this.
      Mark

  • Maria

    10 years ago

    Thanks for creating this post, I wasn’t aware. Food, life, society… I always learn something from reading your posts.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      You’re welcome, thanks for taking the time to read it.

  • David @ Malaysia Asia

    10 years ago

    That’s a great cause and I’m shocked that the government does not recognize them. I truly hope that this will change in time to come. Good work Mark!

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks David. Thailand is surrounded by a lot of countries that have been through tough issues and there are lots of refugees living in Bangkok with nowhere else to go. We also hope that Thailand may recognize refugees in the future.

  • inka

    10 years ago

    I’m glad you posted this touching and at the same time disturbing information at this time of the year. We take so much for granted and should never forget those who are so much less fortunate and, in spite of it all, give hospitality and goodness a new meaning. I’m going to spread the word.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Thanks Lily. When we stop to think about others, like refugees who have nowhere to go, yet still are afraid of being arrested, it really puts things into perspective. Thanks for taking the time to read and share this! And Merry Christmas!