The Life Book Project

Life-changing documentation for children on the Thai-Myanmar border

The issue of statelessness

Birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, health cards and social insurance numbers: documents we often take for granted. But for children in Mae Sot, along the Thai-Myanmar border, they’re simply another thing--and level of protection--they must do without.

Children in Mae Sot have fled violence at the hands of the military government in neighbouring Myanmar. They’ve come to Thailand without documentation and are often separated from their families, putting them at incredible risk of abuse and exploitation. With no recourse to track missing stateless children and rare prosecution of predators, children face an extreme risk of child trafficking.

There is currently no easy pathway for these children to get documentation and the rights that go along with it. Neither the Myanmar government nor the Thai government officially recognize they exist. Without recognition, traveling, getting an education, driving a vehicle or having a job become next to impossible.

But documentation can help. 

How documentation helps

In partnership with Knowing Children, Imagine Thailand is working to document the lives of orphaned and abandoned migrant children along the Thai-Myanmar border. Each child will receive a “Life Book” that includes legal information like a child’s place of birth, birthdate, country of birth, family history and fingerprints. Along with photographs of the child and interviews with relatives, teachers and others who know the child, this book becomes a physical reminder that this child matters; that he or she exists. But most importantly, this booklet will provide all the information needed to pursue a national identity.

More than a book: children’s camps

The Life Book project is about recognizing children when nobody else will. That includes documentation, but also emotional and spiritual care. Teams of Thais, Burmese and foreigners host fun three- to four-day children’s camps. The camps include games, songs, snacks, passport photography and portrait photography, where children dress up for what is usually their very first professional photos. The overall aim is to encourage and empower children with the knowledge that their lives matter and have tremendous worth.

The future: global registration

The issue of statelessness isn't limited to the Thai-Myanmar border. The Life Book project is tied to a global initiative before the United Nations to create a registry of stateless children around the world. The information provided for this project will be entered into a secure database that can be updated by the child as he or she grows up. The initiative recognizes, registers and protects children when their individual governments refuse to.

How to get involved

Imagine Thailand needs two things: donors to cover the cost of Life Books and teams to come to Thailand to run children’s camps. To make a donation, visit www.imaginethailand.org/donate/ and email us to direct your donation to the Life Book project. To organize a team to come to Thailand or to find out more, contact us.