Understanding and acceptance. A place to call home. Decent work. A better future. Some desires are universal, no matter who we are or where in our journeys.
Yet for many of the world’s estimated 272 million international migrants, fulfilling what seems like even basic human needs and wants is a dire struggle often waged quietly and without many allies.
A new web- and social media-based campaign created by the USAID Thailand Counter-Trafficking in Persons activity is shedding light on the hopes, dreams, challenges and remarkable but often overlooked economic contributions made by migrants. In the process, it is amplifying migrants’ voices, sparking dialogue and presenting a call to action to prevent discrimination and improve services and support to people working and living in one of the world’s migration hotspots.
The Inside Khonnok campaign launched in 2021 by the USAID Thailand CTIP activity, implemented by Winrock International, has reached more than 900,000 people and counting. It’s sharing stories and messaging over Instagram and YouTube, in collaboration with local media influencers, and via a variety of social media platforms including Facebook Live panels.
Inside Khonnok, which means “Inside the Outsider” in Thai, is an interactive and engaging virtual exhibition enabling visitors to hear the voices of and gain glimpses into the struggles and progress of some of the many migrants who keep some of Thailand’s most important and profitable industries – including agriculture, seafood, construction, manufacturing and services – ticking. The online platform, launched in November, also captures how migrants have contributed throughout history to the development of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, as well as to cultural diversity in Thailand, one of the world’s most visited countries.
The platform shares the stories of people such as Aye Mi San, a migrant from conflict-torn Myanmar who risked getting fired from a low-paying construction job when she joined a group of other workers requesting that their employer pay at least the minimum daily wage for their labor. (Names used in the campaign have been changed to protect privacy.)
“If Myanmar is better, I would go straight home,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be here this long.”
Kee Lar Win, a migrant who has received assistance from the project, injured her hand while working with machinery in Thailand. Laid off by her bosses when she tried to file a claim seeking medical assistance, she turned to the USAID Thailand CTIP project for help. Kee Lar Win received legal assistance, including advice from a lawyer, as well as a translator to accompany her to the hospital for treatment.
“They have helped me to continue my treatment and exercising my rights covering the surgery,” she says. “I have a little hope that my hand will get back to normal.”
Thailand’s export-focused economy is hugely reliant on migrant laborers like Aye Mi San and Kee Lar Win.
Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, Thailand hosts the largest number of migrants of any country, with an estimated 5 million workers, most of whom hail from neighboring countries including Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Many migrant workers accept low-wage jobs in work categorized as “3D” – difficult, dangerous and dirty. Though migrants are entitled to workers’ rights under Thai law, including access to social security and education services, many migrants and even some employers are unaware of these provisions, leaving migrants vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Inside Khonnok is helping to fill the knowledge gap by dispelling myths about migrants and providing useful information, including, for example about schooling options for migrant children through both Thai government and nongovernmental organizations. “More than 164,000 migrant children are enrolled in migrant learning centers. However, it is estimated that 200,000 migrant children remain out of school and are not receiving any form of education” in Thailand, the platform notes.
The activity also works with communities and champions across government, civil society and the private sector to address the enabling environment for trafficking and exploitation, empowering at-risk populations to safeguard their rights, and strengthening protection systems for survivors. The activity prioritizes partnerships and leverages ongoing CTIP initiatives in Thailand, coordinating closely with source countries for a unified cross-border response. The project also provides communities with access to a range of tools and resources via the Winrock-developed Thailand Migrant Resource Toolkit, which informs migrants about their rights and assists service providers in their work.
Winrock implements a range of projects through a variety of funders that support safe migration, provide services and resources to survivors, and reduce and prevent human trafficking in Asia and around the world, including projects funded by USAID, the U.S. Department of State, the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
In addition to offering a view of the world through the eyes and voices of migrants, Inside Khonnok includes photos, an interactive learning tool on the work of migrants who live and work in Thailand, a scroll-through exhibition on the project’s work and impacts over its first five years, and a mechanism for supporters and those interested in learning more about the project’s work to engage.
To learn more about how Winrock and partners are tapping into technology and developing tools to raise awareness, build networks that support safe migration, connect survivors and prevent human trafficking, click here.