THE PAVILIONS PHUKET EPL Prediction Competition 2018-2019 Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Stunted by poverty: Thai village children whose parents leave for Bangkok

ISAAN: With a bit of luck eight-year-old Chayanit will see her mother twice this year. The little girl has been raised by her grandparents for most of her life after her mother left their rural village to find work in Bangkok, Thailand’s economic nucleus.

cultureimmigration
By AFP

Friday 29 April 2016, 04:38PM


Eight-year-old Chayanit with her grandmother, Ms Chanpen Uthachan. Photo: AFP

Eight-year-old Chayanit with her grandmother, Ms Chanpen Uthachan. Photo: AFP

A tide of internal migration has left three million Thai children growing up in similar circumstances and experts fear the phenomenon is incubating a social crisis.

Grinning widely as she plays with a top knot in her hair, Chayanit says she is happy with village life in Thailand’s Isaan region.

But the smile fades as the conversation turns to her family set-up, an arrangement shaped by economic realities in a rice-farming region where work is scare and wages low. 

“I like being with my grandparents, but I miss my mum. I can’t go to see her and she can only come here every six months,” she says.

Her mother has an office job in Bangkok and sends back monthly remittances of around B3-4,000 ($85-110).

Poor but populous Isaan has for decades seen its families split by migration.

An estimated 30 per cent of the region’s under-18s are the children of migrant workers, most of whom leave for several years at a time, returning only for annual holidays.

The exodus “has been normalised” by Thai society, explains Aree Jampaklay, of the Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR), at Mahidol University, who has led pioneering studies on the issue in conjunction with UNICEF.

But it is laden with risk. Their research indicates that Thai children living without their parents are prone to being poorly nourished, and suffer from developmental and behavioural issues.

Those factors are particularly damaging in Isaan, where deprivation has been compounded by an ongoing drought.

The region has several of Thailand’s poorest provinces and its schools already turn out some of its worst-performing students.

And it has long been the epicentre of political opposition to the elites of Bangkok. 

Baan Dau in Ubon Ratchanthani province is much like any other Isaan village: the tallest building is an ornate Buddhist temple, chickens flit between yards while a tiny shop serves a close-knit community cocooned by rice fields.

It is also nearly completely devoid of working age adults.

Most have gone to Bangkok, a sprawling metropolis of some eight million that dwarfs all other Thai cities and where a taxi driver can make several times the monthly wage of a farmer.

“Eighty, maybe 90 per cent of the households have grandparents raising the children,” says Chayanit’s grandmother Chanpen Uthachan, 70.

“There is no work here, so my children have all moved to Bangkok.”

Chanpen and her husband Prajak, also in his 70s, care for the girl and her five-year-old brother Kittipop.

While there is no shortage of love, Chanpen says she has less energy than when she raised her own offspring.

QSI International School Phuket

“It’s hard especially when they are sick and I have to stay up all night,” she laments.

It’s not just home life that suffers. Local teachers say rural children without parents struggle to concentrate and as a result score lower in literacy and numeracy than their urban peers.

Bangkok, which hoards Thailand’s wealth and political power, has for generations pulled in poor rural migrants.

But the topic of what happens to the children left behind is not widely discussed. 

“The research is starting to show that this will affect the children’s future and therefore the future of the country,” explains Aree, the academic.

Children aged between eight and 15 were significantly “less happy, less responsible and less confident” than those brought up by their parents. 

Worse still, infants’ language and social skills suffer.

“Children are less exposed to activities that stimulate them such as reading, storytelling or games,” she said, explaining the rural elderly are often poorly educated themselves.

In addition, the absence of breast-feeding and a poor awareness of a children’s dietary requirements also means many suffer stunted growth.

The issue amounts to a poverty trap, explains Thomas Davin UNICEF’s Thailand representative, as migrants doggedly trying to remedy their situation end up undercutting their children’s lives. 

“The poor become poorer... the cycle of vulnerability repeats itself,” Davin adds.

Boosting rural economic growth to encourage parents to stay and overhauling the country’s education system are among the long-term solutions, while UNICEF is also working with the government to give monthly support payments to poor families with young children.

But policy implementation is rarely simple in Thailand, a country whose recent history is saturated with coups and political unrest.

Policies involving Isaan are often highly charged. 

When they are allowed to vote, Isaan’s people do so for parties allied to billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they laud for recognising their challenges and aspirations, but who is hated by the Bangkok-centric elite for his populist appeal. 

But it is the distance from his two young sons, not the politics of poverty, that preoccupy Assani Laocharoen, an Isaan migrant who works in Bangkok delivering furniture.

Outside a squat, scruffy block of flats for migrant workers he says he can make it home only twice a year.

“I miss my kids so much. I just want to live with them, hug, kiss and hang out with them,” he said.

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket mops up after storm lashes island, plunges businesses into darkness

"Now complaining about media coverage," did I miss something, who is complaining, about me...(Read More)


Amid ‘overtourism’ scourge, global survey questions happiness of residents in major tourism destinations

Does anyone think that business operators are going to for-go profits for residents to "feel mo...(Read More)


Phuket beach-touring croc a ‘saltie’, DNA tests confirm

Fresh abrasions from keeping croc in concrete enclosure. Astonished that a croc kept in a concrete...(Read More)


Major power blackout to affect Karon

Understand that now and than at different Phuket areas high voltage cables have to be renewed. But I...(Read More)


Thai man, 30, dies in Phuket motorbike crash

Test drive at dark hours on Phuket ill lighted roads. Speed is your winner,... to heaven. Lucky no...(Read More)


Weapons, ammunition found in vehicle of man shot dead by Phuket police

Either very poor reporting, we see a lot of it, or something wrong here, first report does not menti...(Read More)


Govt to splash B151mn to prevent Phuket road flooding

Nonsense and jibberish. This is just the next mega budget burner. The governor laments the lack of u...(Read More)


Phuket man, 29, shot dead while fleeing police

Best Insp Kurt doesn't get chased by the cops in America- he'll be in for a nasty shot!...(Read More)


Govt to splash B151mn to prevent Phuket road flooding

Ahh- so it's all about 'image' then. No mention about addressing the root causes of thi...(Read More)


Phuket man, 29, shot dead while fleeing police

From the Bangkok Post, "...was shot dead after he opened fire at arresting police after a chase...(Read More)


 

Melbourne Cup 2018