Although TV, movies, and social media may portray Thailand as a mix of just a handful of ethnicities—Central Thai, Lao Isaan, Thai-Chinese, Lanna, and Southern Thai foremost among them—the country boasts a richer diversity than its pop culture suggests.
Spanning from the Urak Lawoi and Moklen in the South to the Yunnanese and Dara-ang in the North, Thailand is home to over 60 ethnic groups, many of whom remain stateless despite having been born and raised within the country’s borders.
An online exhibition hopes to give their stories, and their struggles, more space in the national dialogue.
Called You Me We Us
, the exhibition is a collaborative effort led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) that highlights the ways of life and resilience of Thailand’s marginalized ethnic minorities.
You Me We Us begins with a brief survey before opening to an interactive map of Thailand. Using this, you can view different stories by zooming in on specific regions.
Through photography, film, infographics, and narrative stories, the exhibition then takes a closer look at the way people live along the country’s edges—in its mountains, by the sea, in the plains—while casting light on the challenges many face without rights or status in Thailand.
The UNDP worked with Thai film production studio Realframe
to bring some of their stories to life.
Before the exhibition, they organized a series of workshops to teach filmmaking, photography, and infographic skills to people from different ethnic groups. Some of the work they produced can be found in the exhibition.
Realframe has also produced a documentary linked to the project. Called Becoming Home
, the film documents the lives of six stateless men and women in Thailand. Although it hasn’t been released yet, you can check out the trailer on the You Me We Us website.
According to an official movie blurb, “By not being recognized as ‘Thai’, the status has affected their lives in many aspects, including their ability to travel, to obtain education, and to access basic legal rights and social welfare. Yet, amid legal conditions and social prejudice, they are still trying to hold tight to their dreams as they support one another with the hope that everyone will be treated equally as human beings.”
You Me We Us was created in collaboration with the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Center (SAC), the Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), and the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (CIPT), with the support from the European Union (EU).
The exhibition marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, celebrated each year on Aug 9, and is meant to promote equal opportunities and respect for all human beings’ rights, dignity, and freedom. It also aims to foster connections between ethnic groups, citizens, and the state to help foster inclusion and spark change in Thai society.