Where do we work?: Thailand

Population: 68,069,923

Area: 513,120 sq. km.

Median Age: 33.3

Literacy: 92.6 %

Languages: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects

Thailand, located in South East Asia, has experienced profound growth over the last decade. This has been partly due to tourism, but also its investment and trade policies. There are still a large number of poor in Thailand, particularly in rural areas.

The poorest though are no doubt the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking a life free of persecution. 98% of these refugees have fled the conflict in Burma (Myanmar), a place where if they returned they would face persecution by the ruling junta purely because of their ethnicity.

Over one third, or almost 140,000 of the refugees in Thailand are confined to camps near the Thai/Burma border. They have limited opportunities in Thailand, partly due to that nation’s policies – it has not signed or ratified UNHCR’s Convention on the Status of Refugees – but also due to community fear of refugees, a lack of education and the protracted nature of their existence as refugees (some have been in camps for over 20 years).

Education is the key for many refugees, many of whom have no hope of returning to their homeland or resettling in a third country such as Australia, to improve their existence in Thailand. Education which teaches skills such as income generating activities but also makes refugees aware of their human rights is essential.

Current Volunteers   Recent Volunteers
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Below are some profiles of volunteers currently working in Thailand.

Rosaleen Smyth

Rosaleen Smyth

Rosaleen Smyth, a lecturer from Canberra (and the world), is volunteering her skills to assist refugees in Thailand gain a university education.

A Day Well Spent in Mae Sot

June 15, 2015

“The graduation ceremony for the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Diploma in Liberal Studies was held in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma Border on May 23, 2015. Professor Geraldine Castleton, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Education at ACU gave the formal address and presented the testamurs. Others in the platform party were the […]

Liberating Movement

May 14, 2013

Dr Rosaleen Smyth is currently in her second placement with Palms, having previously volunteered in Tanzania. She is now at the Thai Burma border tutoring refugees in their tertiary studies.

Rosaleen Smyth volunteering at the Thai/Burma border

December 7, 2012

Rosaleen Smyth

Rosaleen Smyth, a lecturer from Canberra (and the world), is volunteering her skills to assist refugees in Thailand gain a university education.

Letters from the field: Thai/Burma border

December 3, 2010

Australian Catholic University (ACU) presented certificates or diplomas in Liberal Studies to 16 students from Mae Sot refugee camp at the Thai/Burma border.

Frank Morgan volunteering in Thailand

July 6, 2010


Frank Morgan, from Melbourne, is volunteering as a Tutor in Mae La camp on the Thai Burma border.

A volunteer’s thoughts on “Copenhagen”

March 11, 2010

Frank Morgan, working with refugees on an education project on the Thai/Burma border, demonstrates his empathy for the people of low-lying Pacific nations.

New Directions

October 23, 2009

Providing training in a refugee camp setting is a new direction for Palms, although one which fits entirely with Palms’ vision and mission for sustainable development.

What a terrible thing, to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled,
with good connections politically, economically, socially, lacking nothing, having everything. - Oscar Romero