The Hmong are an Asian ethnic group. Many are from regions in Vietnam, Thailand, China and Laos. About 95% of the Hmong live in Asia.

Thailand Northern Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion


The Weather

  • This is a typical home of the Akha people in Thailand’s northern mountains. Many Akha have migrated from Myanmar to escape armed conflict, and they live in Thailand illegally. Thailand woman outside small brick home
  • During worship time at her child development center, a girl from the Karen tribe reads the Bible she received from Compassion. Thailand girl reading book
  • Many children in the north are considered non-citizens. Because of this, they have limited access to education, health services, and other basic human necessities. Thailand girl through fence closeup
  • At a Compassion center in Chiang-Rai, children participate in activities that develop their creativity and self-expression. Thailand boys painting pictures
  • Every year, each Compassion-assisted center organizes a sports day for children and parents. This special activity builds not only muscles and strength. Thailand boys playing tug of war
  • The Meoi river marks the border between Thailand and Myanmar. When there is conflict in Myanmar, Thai villagers hear the gunfire. Thailand lake and mountains

Overview: Northern Thailand

Thailand’s northern region is divided into two areas: the lower plains and the upper mountains along the border with Myanmar and Laos. The north is home to several ethnic hill tribes and the total population of these ethnic groups is about 1 million. Sadly, these people — many of whom are refugees from Myanmar and Laos — suffer severe discrimination, even from the Thai government.

During the rainy season — June to October — northern villagers face the threat of flooding. It is particularly hazardous in the mountains, where landslides commonly destroy villagers’ fragile homes and block roads. The opposite problem, drought, is common during the dry months of March through May.

In the forested north, mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria are common, as are diseases caused by the consumption of contaminated water. However, the village health centers are small and not equipped to treat anything other than minor injuries or illnesses.


Culture Corner


Try this chicken dish, particularly popular in northern Thailand.


1 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. red curry paste*
1 tsp. turmeric
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp. fish sauce*
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 cup water
1 tsp. sugar
1 raw, boneless chicken
breast, thinly sliced
2-3 cups egg noodles, cooked
½ lime
Fresh cilantro

* Available at Asian markets.


Heat wok or frying pan and add oil, red curry paste and turmeric.

Stir until paste is mixed with the oil.

Add coconut milk, fish sauce, bouillon, water and sugar.

Simmer until all is well blended.

Add chicken and simmer until cooked. Pour over noodles.

Add squeeze of lime and some cilantro.


Life in Northern Thailand

The northern region of Thailand borders Laos and Myanmar. Along these mountainous borders, the climate is more variable than in other regions of the country. In the winter, temperatures can dip to 40 degrees, and flooding during the annual rainy season can be disastrous in this region.

Northern Thailand is also varied in the population’s ethnic composition. Tribes that live here include the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Lawa, Khmu and Mlabri. These tribes have their own languages and customs. They are, however, widely discriminated against by the majority Thai population and by the government. This marginalization keeps them mired in poverty with little hope of advancement.

As throughout Thailand, Buddhism is the primary faith in the north. But Christianity is growing, and about 10 percent of this region’s people follow Christ.

Children at Home

Homes in Thailand’s northern villages are made of bamboo, with thatched roofs. They have one common room that serves as the living, sleeping and cooking area for a family of four or five members.

In the northern cities, families of Compassion-assisted children live in rough cement or wooden homes with corrugated iron roofs. Unlike homes in the remote villages, these typically have access to electricity and a water supply.


Community Issues and Concerns thailand north community

The primary livelihood of people in the north is agriculture. Here, families grow rice for their own consumption, along with other produce, such as cabbage and beans, to sell. However, this backbreaking work provides the equivalent of only $50 to $80 per month. Other families raise and sell pigs or chickens. Some adults find work on larger farms in the region, earning about $3 per day.

In addition to poverty, a major problem for northern tribal people is the lack of recognized citizenship. Often, the birth of a child goes unrecorded. Also, the children of refugees are considered non-citizens by the Thai government. The rights of non-citizens are severely restricted. They cannot, for instance, own property or travel out of their village without the government’s permission.

Few services, such as access to clean water and electricity, are available in the hill villages. And along the border, children face ongoing danger from armed conflict between the Myanmar government and rebelling tribes.

Local Needs and Challenges

In northern Thailand, Compassion ministers to children who live in city slums, as well as to children living in remote mountain villages. Children in the slums suffer in deplorable conditions and are vulnerable to drug and alcohol addiction, child labor, and sexual exploitation. In the mountain villages, children, typically from marginalized tribal groups, are not considered Thai citizens. They are treated like undesirables and are often denied even the ability to attend school.


Schools and Education thailand north education

The school year in the northern region has two terms. The first semester is from May to October. The second semester starts in November and goes to the beginning of March.

Schools in the remote northern areas are poorly equipped, and they typically provide education only through the sixth grade. For children to continue their education, they must move to one of the northern cities, like Chiang Mai. But since most poor families cannot afford this expense, children usually end up working in the fields with their parents instead of completing their education.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Currently, Compassion-assisted child development centers are providing children in northern Thailand with the resources and learning opportunities they need to overcome poverty and achieve their potential. Academic tutoring and vocational training at the centers fill the gap left by the village schools. Also, centers provide a nutritious lunch on activity days. Most important, the children have the opportunity to learn about God’s love and gift of salvation in Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

In Thailand, as in each country where Compassion ministers, our program of assisting children in need is carried out through local churches. That’s because local church staff know well their community and its needs, and they are dedicated to the church’s God-given role of bringing justice, hope and redemption to the poor.

One Compassion center director says, “Some parents may be skeptical about our program, but when we tell them about the benefits for their children – such as the health checkups, free meals, and educational activities – they don’t have any problems. They know we will be teaching their children about Christ, but they trust that we will not coerce them into conversion.”

How Compassion Works in Thailand thailand north compassion in thailand

Compassion's work in Thailand began in 1970. Currently, more than 36,700 children are registered in 228 church-based child development centers.

For more than 40 years, Compassion has been partnering with local churches, helping them provide Thai children with the material resources and learning opportunities they need to rise above their circumstances and become all that God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

As a Partnership Facilitator for Compassion Thailand, Kanokwan summarizes her role: “I guide churches in their partnership with Compassion and encourage them to fight for the children with the resources they have.”

Currently, Kanokwan oversees 13 church-based child development centers. Getting to these centers can be a challenge – nine hours on a bus, three hours on a van and another hour of walking. But Kanokwan doesn’t complain. “My favorite part of the job is visiting children’s homes with center staff members,” she says. “It is encouraging to see staff interacting with children and parents with such love and care. It affirms why I serve at Compassion – to create choices and provide hope for the future to the children.”


Prayer Requests

  • Pray that parents will understand the importance of education and support their children’s academic endeavors.
  • Pray for the protection of children’s homes from flooding and landslides during the monsoon season.
  • Pray for the health of children in the north who have limited access to medical care.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of Compassion-assisted children who face unemployment or underemployment.