Mae Sot is a border town located on the Moei river, which separates Thailand from Burma. The town is known locally for its cross-border trade, especially in teak and gems, and for its darker side which is known for trafficking in humans and drugs. Although there are ongoing talks at the government level regarding creating a Special Economic Zone in or around Mae Sot, already there are an estimated 200 factories operating in the area, many of which employ workers from Burma, both legally and illegally. The official Thai census estimates 106,000 migrant workers living in Mae Sot, but in reality, as many are undocumented and working in the country illegally, the number is likely to be at least double the official estimate.
Migrant schools started somewhat unofficially when educated members of the Burmese community saw a need to educate children of migrant workers. Ten years ago it was almost impossible for non-Thai children to attend Thai schools. Today there are over 60 schools operating in and around Mae Sot including nursery programs and non-formal education programs for young adults. Many schools belong to organizations which work together to standardize curriculum and train teachers, often with the help of international groups like World Education
Although many schools in Mae Sot cater to the children of economic migrants – that is to people from Burma who are looking for work in Thailand – the majority of children who are living without their parents in local boarding houses come from conflict zones within Burma. The majority of students living in boarding houses in Mae Sot have been separated from their parents. In a survey conducted of Mae Sot boarding houses by Mae Tao Clinic in 2010, only a small percentage of children were orphaned. Room to Grow supports projects that house children of itinerant migrant laborers, children who have been separated from their families by conflict and children who have been abandoned or orphaned from their parents.