Ethnic and Indigenous Populations

Thailand’s western border is a richly diverse region. In addition to Thai, Karen, and Mon communities; ethnic Burmese, Laotian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, and Rohingya live in the area. Ethnic and indigenous populations in this region, while facing the same economic and health challenges as other residents, also often lack information about their legal and health rights. Many have “colored” ID cards that afford them legal status but deny them the full rights of Thai citizenship, restricting their travel outside of the border areas and limiting their access to certain government services. In addition, many of these community members speak one or more ethnic languages but have limited Thai language skills, further complicating dissemination of information about health care or legal rights and creating communication barriers with healthcare providers or government officials. Furthermore, although historically some of these groups are accustomed to depend on the forests for food, more recent regulations protecting the forests limit these activities as well as restrict the amount of land available for agricultural use in the area.