Arthit and Maprang

Arthit is 7 years old and Maprang is 5. They live with Maprang’s parents, who are Arthit’s grandparents, and Maprang’s older sister Bia, who is 10. Arthit’s mum was just 13 when she became pregnant, and Arthit was left in his grandparents’ care when his parents moved to Chiang Mai when he was very young. They live in a small shack not far from Pai town.

Maprang’s parents have been in Thailand for approximately 20 years. They have four daughters aged 4 (Maprang) to 25. The family have been involved with Kwah Dao for over 10 years since the oldest daughter, Khong, was receiving a small monthly stipend to help with her school costs. She was able to stay in school until Grade 5, when aged 15 she became pregnant and got married. Ong, Arthit’s mother, the second oldest, never had the opportunity to go to school.

Their parents have worked various jobs over the years depending on what they could find: in construction, guesthouses, and farming work, but they have rarely had steady work for long periods of time, and their income is very unreliable. There are reports of prolonged periods of alcoholism and domestic violence. Bia is often left at home in charge of the two younger children. Khong, now 25, lives nearby and is often responsible for supporting them financially, as well as her own two children, though she can barely afford to do so. She also tries to make sure that Bia, Arthit and Maprang are in school and have what they need for studying, however it is a constant struggle for her. Arthit and Maprang have sometimes missed school because there was no one to take them or they haven’t had any money. Kwah Dao also often helps the family out with educational costs, and donations of clothing and household equipment.

Both Arthit and Maprang are incredibly warm and affectionate children who love to be cuddled and always look out for each other and those around them. They formerly attended the Banyan Centre, a kindergarten run by Kwah Dao, after which they transferred into a local Thai school. Arthit, however, was not initially accepted as he was born at home and the family never registered his birth. Kwah Dao helped them to complete this process last year and he was recently officially registered, however Arthit, Maprang and Bia, are all officially stateless, as the Thai government has not automatically give citizenship to those born in Thailand to non-Thai parents. According to his age he should have gone into Grade 1 of primary school, but due to some learning and speech difficulties he was planning to restart kindergarten. However, as a result of his unregistered status he was not accepted into the kindergarten at the school, but into the daycare together with Maprang and other 2-4 year-olds. Their future is uncertain, however the better education they have, the better chance Arthit and Maprang have to make the most of what opportunities come their way and improve their quality of life, and that of their family, in the future.