Tawon is 21 years old and studying for a bilingual degree in Economics at the Faculty of Economics at Chiang Mai University. His older sister, Jab, is also a Kwah Dao scholarship student.
Tawon’s family, one of the poorest that Kwah Dao works with, moved to Thailand before he was born. They have never been back to Burma. His father is a farmer, his mother is in poor health and does menial work when she can and, after paying back the moneylenders they borrow from each year to buy seeds, rent equipment and pay workers at harvest time, they struggle every year to make ends meet. While living at home Tawon spent most of his weekends and holidays working in the fields or taking care of his niece, although he dreamed of following his sister, Jab, to study at a better school in Chiang Mai. He is intelligent and passionate in his studies, and as such Kwah Dao offered him a scholarship beginning in 2012.
Tawon always dreams big and applied to the top schools in Chiang Mai. He didn’t pass the entrance exams for his first two choices (none of the material had been covered at the local school he was attending) but was accepted into his third choice. He found it difficult at first as most of the other students were ahead of him and he had to work hard to catch up. However in the tests at the end of the first term he placed 3rd overall in his class out of 50, a huge achievement. He continues to gain top places in all his exams and often calls KD workers after he gets test results to tell us with pride how well he has done. Tawon is very sociable and has many friends at his new school, however he has told KD workers that none of them know his background, that he is not Thai. He tried to tell his closest friend who didn’t believe him, and has never told anyone else for fear of gossip and teasing.
Tawon was born in Thailand and has a Thai birth certificate, however this does not automatically make him eligible for Thai citizenship. He has never been registered with Burmese authorities and as such is also not a Burmese citizen. This makes him stateless, thus he has no protection or assistance from any government. He is hoping to be able to apply for Thai citizenship one day but must wait to see if the Thai government announces that he is eligible. For the moment, though, he must wait and navigate the difficulties this presents as best he can. For example, he is not allowed to apply for a driver’s licence but needs a motorbike to get around, therefore has to be very careful to avoid police checkpoints where he would, at best, receive a fine.
Tawon is an exceptional student and very ambitious, we are looking forward to watching him progress and we have high hopes for him in the future.