An illegal migrant worker shows a scar from an injury after falling five stories at a construction site. A local NGO has tried to assist the man with legal proceedings against his employer, who is obligated to cover medical expenses despite the fact that he does not have a work permit. However, many companies subcontract their operations, making legal proceedings exceedingly difficult.

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Since fighting began between the Burmese army and various Shan insurgent groups in Shan State over 50 years ago, migrants have been coming to Thailand from Burma/Myanmar in search of safety and a chance at a better life.

Thailand does not recognize people from Shan State as refugees, forcing them to apply for entry as economic migrants. Most Shan migrants reside in northern Thailand and are heavily employed in the construction sector.

As unofficial refugees, they are systematically taken advantage of by employers. Without the proper language skills and knowledge of their rights under Thai law, they are consistently underpaid and work in unsafe conditions. Past persecution from police and military forces deter migrants from seeking help.

Many fear that they will be sent back to Myanmar and have to face even worse economic conditions and ongoing conflict between government and rebel forces. Many work illegally after their permits expire, believing arrest in Thailand is better than the alternative.

Luang was a farmer in Shan State, but could not make enough money to survive and fled the country with his family over ten years ago.

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Htway and her husband had to leave their eldest child in Myanmar when they migrated to Thailand five years ago.

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Women purchase food from a mobile vendor that services migrant worker camps.

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Luang Na and his family left their farm in Shan State after it became too expensive to pay the taxes and bribes forced upon them by the Burmese and Shan State armies.

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Many migrant children do not attend school because transportation, uniform and school supply costs are too high.

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A camp is pictured beside the subdivision where migrants work. When construction is complete, the entire camp often moves to a new location to start another project.

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A boy plays in a construction site beside a migrant worker camp.

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Young children often accompany their parents to work.

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Standing water and sewage pose health problems for many migrant camps.

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Shan migrants fish in a polluted river beside their camps.

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Boys whose parents fled Shan State, Myanmar, because they feared their sons would be forced to become child soldiers.

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Migrants wash from a communal water basin shared by the entire camp of approximately 200 people.

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Pong was 13-years-old when she was held at gunpoint by Burmese soldiers while tending to her family's water buffalo at their home in Shan State. They demanded information about Shan soldiers in the area. She walked for 10 days to reach the Thai border with her family nearly 20 years ago.

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Many of the Shan children born in Thailand are at risk of losing their traditional customs and language. Here, Shan children study their native language in a makeshift night school run by NGO volunteers.

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Many parents fear returning to Shan State because their sons can be recruited by the Burmese or Shan armies.

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Unsafe work conditions are a reality for most Shan migrants.

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Every year numerous migrants are severely injured or killed on construction sites, often from falling or by electrocution. Employers often cover up the accidents and refuse compenstion payments.

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Sai, a migrant worker from Myanmar, fell several stories at a construction site. He is unable to work and his family has taken the children out of school and sold of their few possessions to supplement his wife's meagre income.

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Sai is not able to walk without assistance since his accident and cannot work.

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Sai Muang's children rest in their hut in a migrant construction camp. The family removed them from school to save money following his accident.

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Sai waits to see a doctor for a check up on his injuries.

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