Empowerment is a process: the de-marginalisation of hill communities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai Provinces

Empowerment is a process: the de-marginalisation of hill communities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai Provinces

Empowering the Hill Communities of the North of Thailand

The training has helped Kru Oy know gender justice, and roles and responsibilities of Local Administrative Organisations which empowered her to step up to protect the school for her students. Opportunity to access information and training, particularly for ethnic minority women, is very limited but when the chance come these women turn it into a big change for their community development.

Ms. Rungtip Imrungruang, ActionAid Thailand Program and Project Manager


The hill communities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai face a number of barriers that limit their integration with/ participation in the local government development and management processes (e.g. language). The result is that they are unable to make effective representations to the Local Authorities (LA) for funds to support their development needs, and they suffer from the multiple effects of the destruction of forests that surround their communities. Further limitations are seen with the LA, who limits their interactions with the hill communities due to for instance, a perceived lack of demand.


  • Overall objective: The sustainable inclusion of civil society & marginalized hill communities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai provinces with district & provincial development processes.
  • Specific objective: The managerial, operational and communicative capacities of the Hill Area Development Foundation, the Chiang Rai provincial authorities, and the target communities, are integrated for the identification of needs and funding of agreed development priorities.


  • Increased capacity for institutionalised engagement of local authorities (e.g. Aorbortors and Taesabans) with hill communities for the assessment and inclusion of agreed social, economic, and environmental projects in annual development plans and budgets.
  • Technical and managerial capacities of the Hill Area Development Foundation (HADF) developed to facilitate, advice, and monitor community and Local Authority engagement in community development decisions.
  • All constraints to community participation are removed and 24 marginal hill communities participate in democratic processes for presenting self-identified needs at Prachakom (community/government) meetings to get Local Authority's funding and support.


  • Duration: 48 months (01/07/2013-30/06/2017)
  • Total cost for the action: 666,666.00 EUR (EU contribution: 500,000 EUR)
  • Location: Pa Tueng, Terdthai, and Chiang Dao Sub-Districts, Mae Chan, Mae Pha Luang, Districts, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.


Ms Neramon Biapa (nicknamed 'Kru Oy'), beneficiary of the project

Ms Neramon Biapa ('Kru Oy') is a teacher at and advocate of The Pha Lai mobile kindergarten. This is a mobile school  that welcomes students from six ethnic minority groups. Access to early childhood education is difficult for hill communities, due to the cost of travel. But the school receives little funding from local governments and rely on foreign donors' support. In 2016, this external support was strongly reduced, and the school could have closed. Kru Oy, in addition to teaching and minding the students, also has administrative tasks, serves as the school janitor and cook, assists the local villages headman... When she learned that the school had to close, she thought: “At first, I didn’t know what to do [...]. Without this kindergarten, the children would never go to another kindergarten.”

On April 2016, Kru Oy attended a “Women Leaders Training”, as part of the project implemented by ActionAid Thailand and its partners and founded by the European Union.  In addition to the skills building, the training was an opportunity for women leaders from different communities to exchange knowledge and experiences. Through this training Kru Oy also learned more about the work of the Tambon Administrative Organization.

“I realized that I actually knew very little about the TAO and their responsibility for helping to educate pre-school children.  If I hadn’t attended the training I wouldn’t have known about this ressource.”  Kru Oy said.

After she got back home, Kru Oy was very active in getting the Pha Lai mobile kindergarten into the educational support program of the local TAO.  She worked closely with the Chiang Dao TAO project advisor and field staff of the EU founded project.  Kru Oy learned about the process needed to gain funding for the school. She presented her proposal to the members of the school board, who all agreed with it since they recognized the unique value of the mobile kindergarten. Next, the proposal was presented to the full community in a public forum.  After community approval, the proposal was added to the three-year development plan and the budget is being considered by the Chiang Dao TAO. All this coordination and networking by Kru Oy was successful.  The grassroots can have bottom-up effect and do not need to wait for fundings to come down from the government as in the past.