Chiang Rai is a city in the upper northwest of Thailand. Around 200,000 people live in this city, which is developing mainly thanks to agricultural production and the increasing number of tourists visiting the city.
Since 2006, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Chiang Rai.
The poverty rate in Thailand has fallen dramatically over the last thirty years. However, in Chiang Rai province, an estimated 5% of the population still lives in poverty, making it one of the poorest provinces in Thailand. This is due to economic and environmental reasons.
Northern Thailand has had numerous forest fires in recent years, and about 10% of these fires were in the Chiang Rai region. Forest fires cause health problems and loss of life and devastate communities. They also have a serious economic impact and lead to poverty as properties and businesses, as well as tourism and recreation are destroyed. Children growing up in the region are particularly affected by the consequences of forest fires.
Chiang Rai is located in the Golden Triangle. This area, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, is the second largest opium producer in the world. Around 60,000 hectares of land here are used for opium cultivation, although growing the plant is illegal in Thailand. Nevertheless, it is still cultivated, especially by the poorest, because there is a lack of alternative sources of income. The Thai government and external organisations have set up several programmes to control cultivation and alleviate addiction by helping farmers grow coffee instead. Nevertheless, opium addiction remains a challenge and children are particularly affected.