Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Migrant kids’ schooling at risk

Migrant kids’ schooling at risk

A Cambodian migrant worker and her children cross the Thai border
A Cambodian migrant worker and her children cross the Thai border. The Thai government is reconsidering its free-education policy, which could effect migrant workers and their children. Vireak Mai

Migrant kids’ schooling at risk

A plan floated in Thailand to cut state educational support to migrant workers’ children has drawn the ire of rights groups, which say thousands of Cambodian youths could be denied their basic right to education.

According to Thai media, Kamol Rodklai, secretary-general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), has said that the number of foreign students in Thailand could increase to 250,000 within three years, leading the commission to reconsider the government’s policy of offering free education.

Kamol said that help for these students might be limited to tuition and learning equipment, with their parents to be asked to pay for student uniforms, books and development activities.

Rights groups said yesterday that this was not acceptable.

Frequently, “migrant parents are paid much less than the minimum wage, have little medical or other benefits and have very minimal savings – meaning that they usually lack the funds to pay for books, uniforms and other requirements that attending a Thai school entails,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said.

Robertson added that the alternative to the “education for all” policy would be “scores of migrant children dropping out of schools”, which would violate Thailand’s obligations under international law to ensure that all children have the right to primary education.

Phal Bunthy, a construction worker from Battambang province, has struggled to provide his 7-year-old daughter with an education since they moved to Thailand about two months ago.

Having not yet found a permanent rental home, he claims it has been impossible to enrol his daughter in what should be an all-inclusive education system free to all.

“We want her to go to a Thai school, but we have not been able to,” he said yesterday.

Bunthy added that after making it through the door, his 6-year-old niece, who recently returned to Cambodia, struggled to integrate.

After her parents footed the cost of food, transport and clothing, Bunthy said that his niece felt “isolated” and did “not have a lot of friends to play with”.

This isolation is something that Adisorn Kerdmongkol of Thai NGO Migrant Working Group said would only get worse if the cuts were made.

“The attitude of Thailand to migrant children may be even more negative,” he said by email, adding that it could create greater “disparity” between Thai and migrant children.

Kerdmongkol also questioned OBEC’s estimates.

With an average increase of 13,000 people per year, Kerdmongkol said the number of migrant children in schools – which he said currently stands at 113,067 – “will not exceed 160,000 people”.

Robertson of Human Rights Watch said that while the proposed cuts were “not surprising”, the “issue is that the larger idea of free and compulsory primary education for all should not be compromised”.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BANGKOK POST

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a