Defending the Most Vulnerable

Imagine what life would be like if no country claimed you. Half of the members of northern Thailand’s hill tribes lack documentation of the Thai citizenship that is their legal right, due to a complex, unresponsive and prejudiced justice system. Without this documentation, they cannot work or attend school, cannot travel freely and are often denied access to medical care. Because no justice system defends them, hill tribe women and girls without citizenship documentation are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and other forms of violence.

With or without citizenship, children also face a high risk of sexual violence, and impoverished families who cannot afford lawyers may find it impossible to get justice and protection. IJM’s office in Chiang Mai defends these vulnerable groups.

IJM opened an office in 2017 in Bangkok to work with authorities as they respond to another massive need—men, women and children enslaved in the seafood industry.

What We Do

  1. We travel throughout Thailand’s remote northern hill tribe region to identify people who are legally entitled to Thai citizenship but do not have it – and, as a result, are left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
  2. IJM attorneys help these stateless hill tribe people officially file for citizenship, a complex bureaucratic process that can take many months.
  3. We relentlessly advocate on their behalf to move their cases through overburdened government offices that oversee the citizenship application process.

    We receive case referrals from partner organizations, churches and families, and work with local law enforcement to ensure that children who remain vulnerable to abuse are brought to safety.


    We investigate cases, help the Royal Thai Police to arrest criminals and support prosecution of rapists and other child abusers.


    We provide trauma therapy and support families so children can heal in a safe and stable environment, as well as help survivors prepare to share the truth in court.


    We provide training and hands-on mentoring to law enforcement, judges and other professionals. We advocate for reforms to the court process to protect children.


    We will rescue victims trafficked onto fishing boats and enslaved in the seafood industry by collaborating with Thai law enforcement and other governments in the region.


    We will assist police as they gather evidence, and support prosecutors as they build cases against traffickers, recruiters and boat owners for trafficking crimes.


    We will provide support during rescue operations and create individualized care plans to meet survivor’s physical, psychological and emotional needs so they can thrive in freedom.


    We will work alongside officials in Thailand and neighboring countries to ensure impunity ends for traffickers. IJM will also partner with global seafood retailers to help end slavery.

“Some people think citizenship is just a plastic card – but in reality, those without that card don’t have a life.”

– Khem Saksakunmongkhon, IJM Thailand Field Office Director

Our Progress

Since 2000, IJM Chiang Mai has assisted more than 13,000 hill tribe members to receive documentation of their citizenship rights or elevated legal status.

IJM’s Chiang Mai team is led by Khem Saksakun­mongkhon—a hill tribe member who was the first person from his village to graduate high school and the second person ever in his tribe to become a lawyer.

Our Team in Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Citizenship Rights, Sexual Violence
Field office director
Khem Saksakunmongkhon
IJM Chiang Mai

Bangkok, Thailand

Labor Trafficking
Field Office Director
Andrey Sawchenko
Deputy Field Office Director
Andrew Wasuwongse
IJM Bangkok

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