Bangkok, 14 December 2018 – In a society where refugee issues are still widely unknown, refugee youth and Thai military students gathered in July to promote refugee rights through a peer support project in Bangkok.
A group of refugee youth from various countries gathered to watch Muay Thai boxing performed by Thai military students. The Thais wore traditional Muay Thai dress. Refugees wore the traditional clothing of their nations. After the boxing match, the refugees and Thais played basketball together. Refugees also did henna painting, something many Thais had not seen before.
The Urban Education Project (UEP) of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), provided this peer support activity in order to strengthen the relationship between the Thai and refugee youth communities in Bangkok.
Peer support is an important part of the community activities that are organized by the UEP three times a year. Those who participate increase their awareness of the refugee situation in Bangkok as well as their knowledge of multiculturalism.
“I never knew who refugees were before,” said Aekarach Amvadee, a grade 12 Thai military student who was one of the Muay Thai performers. “Today I really met them for the very first time. I realized that they were normal kids like us. We were all around the same age and got along well with each other despite different languages and cultures.”
“I made new friends and learned a lot from them today,” he added. “Thais can be friends with refugees as we are all living as human beings together. There should not be any discrimination against refugees. I really had fun doing activities with my new refugee friends. I also improved my English skills. It would be good to have more activities like this in the future because it gives Thai people the opportunity to learn more about the lives of refugees.”
Through these activities, the UEP is tackling the bias caused by misinformation, xenophobia and lack of education about refugees. In addition to community activities, the UEP provides education to youth urban refugees and asylum seekers in Bangkok through a 6-month course of Thai and English classes. This project specially targeted towards youth also offers vocational skill training in computers, sewing, and hairdressing. The 2018 cohort had 60 refugees from diverse countries.
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