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Thai schools to accept migrant children

Catholics vow to make it easier for undocumented kids, mainly from Myanmar

Thai schools to accept migrant children
Catholic school managers and others discuss accepting Myanmar migrant children into Thai schools
Panithan Kitsakul, Bangkok

March 4, 2011

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Catholic schools in Thailand have resolved to lead the way in giving places to thousands of undocumented children from Myanmar and to offer them top quality education. Managers from mainly Catholic and some state schools, along with several government officials, met for the first time yesterday to discuss issues surrounding the education of these children, many of whom live in an environment that is often hostile to them. The meeting: “Education Rights of Migrant Children,” organized by the Catholic Committee for Justice and Peace, was told that undocumented children are still being refused places in schools despite a 2005 cabinet resolution that extended educational opportunities to them. “Many school managers don’t seem aware of this, and still think accepting Burmese children is illegal,” said Brother Victor Gill Munu, coordinator of the La Salle Foundation which supports the Bamboo School, an orphanage for displaced children near Sangkhlaburi, on the border with Myanmar. “The challenge for Catholic schools is that we have to lead the way in accepting them… Catholic schools need to set the standard,” the De La Salle brother said. Some schools are aware of the law but refuse to accept students from Myanmar because of other reasons, the meeting heard. “Many Thai parents distrust Burmese people and move their children to other schools if they are accepted,” said Ms. Saovanee Sawangarom, director of Wat Sirimongkol School in Samut Sakorn province, south west of Bangkok. “However, we’ve accepted Burmese children since 2006 since we realize the importance of education for all children. At present we have 800 Burmese children,” she said. Another reason is resistance from certain government departments, according to Father Suwat Lueng-sa-ard, director of the Surat Thani Diocesan Social Action Center. The interior ministry, for example, sees the presence of huge numbers of migrants as a security issue, he said. TH13494.1643
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