• In Thailand, Three Refugee Youth Experience Life Beyond the Camps for the First Time


    During the week of and on June 20, 2018, World Refugee Day, Right To Play Thailand ran a series of play days and events highlighting our play- and sport-based programs with refugee children and youth. 

    As part of the activities, three Myanmar teenage refugees, Thien Tan, 18, Gyi Aye, 17 and Paw Thaut Kya, 16, were chosen to travel to Bangkok with Right To Play Thailand to participate in the 2018 SportAccord symposium—a six-day, global sports-advancement event. 

    Born and raised inside the confines of the camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, these young people, and all other refugees living in Thailand, aren’t allowed to leave the camps under any circumstances, including going to school or getting a job. This year proved to be the exception. Thailand's Ministry of Interior granted Right To Play Thailand permission to bring this small group of young refugees to the 2018 Sport Accord summit in Bangkok; the city’s first time hosting the 50-year-old convention. 

    Recognized for driving positive change for the development of sport around the world, Sport Accord is a one-stop shop for international sports federations, businesses and community leaders to connect on industry trends, social responsibility and athletic advancement. By interacting with this community, Thien Tan, Gyi Aye and Paw Thaut Kya gained insight into the emotional, relational and physical benefits of sport, while participating in the symposium’s multiple activities. 

    Right To Play Thailand hopes the experience will fill the youth with renewed hope and that they will share their stories with the other children living in the camps. Thien Tan, Gyi Aye and Paw Thaut Kya wrote about their lives as refugees, their experience leaving the camp for the first time and their dreams—all as a part of Right To Play Thailand’s social media campaign, the “Humans of Refugee Camps.” Here are their stories: 

    Thien Tan, 18 


    My name is Thein Tan. I have two brothers and two sisters. I am the youngest child in the family. I was born in 2000, in Mae La refugee camp, Tak Province. In 2009, my father became very sick and passed away that year. After my father passed away, my mother’s health deteriorated. My siblings and I decided to work so we would have the money to help our mother. In 2014, my mother decided to leave for Myanmar to see doctors there. Not long after, she passed away. Realizing that I can’t do anything to help her anymore, I decided to stop working and resumed my study at the school in the camp. Now I am in Grade 12. My life has changed since my parents left me. I’ve joined the activities of Right To Play. There I find peace because I get to be with my friends, play with my friends and do many activities with them. What’s more, in April Right To Play selected me to participate in the Sport Accord event in Bangkok. It is my very first time I got to see a big city like this. It really is a turning point in my life. I now feel happy and confident. Most importantly, I see hope. 

    Gyi Aye, 17


    My name is Gyi Aye. I have 4 siblings. I am now in Grade 9 at High School in Mae La refugee camp, Tak Province. My parents have lived in the camp for more than 20 years. I was born in 2001 in the camp so I’ve lived in the camp my whole life. I never set foot outside the camp until 2006 when I joined the Friendship Games in a nearby village. Organized by Right To Play, the Friendship Game is an annual sports event between the youth in refugee camps and local youth in communities nearby. Who would know that I’d have the chance to come to Bangkok one day? Early this year, I was overwhelmed with joy when I learned that I was chosen to be one of the eight refugee youth to participate in the Sport Accord event in Bangkok in April 2018. I couldn’t wait for that day to come. I was so excited that I was going to ride the elevator for the first time in my life, to sleep on a soft, big bed and to see skyscrapers. When the time came, I was over the moon. It is an unforgettable experience. As soon as I came home, my friends rushed to my house to ask me about my experience. They really wanted to know how the world beyond the barbed wire around our camp looks like. The trip to Bangkok has had a great impact on me. I now have an ambition for the better future beyond the camp. 

    Paw Thout Kya, 16


    ​My name is Paw Thout Kya. I have 4 siblings. I’m the youngest one. I was born in 2002 in Umpiem Mai Refugee Camp in Tak Province. When I was 8 years old, my mom became very sick and died. My dad has been working very hard since to support us. One day our family was accepted by Australia for resettlement. However, my dad did not want to leave because he has so much memory here. And he hopes for the return to Myanmar. But my 3 brothers chose to leave. So I have to stay here to be with my dad. I still hope that one day I can reunite with my brothers in Australia. In April this year, I was so, so, so happy to learn that Right To Play selected me as one of the 8 refugee youth to participate in Sport Accord event in Bangkok. I never thought I would have a chance to come to Bangkok because I’d never been outside Umpiem Mai my whole life. The trip to Bangkok really opened my eyes. I got to see the capital city of Thailand that it is so big, so bright and organized. Basically, I got to see what civilization looks like. The trip really inspired me to improve myself for a better future.​​