Thivya’s Story

Despite being granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), many refugees in Bangkok still fear arrest and detention. Thivya and her family were arrested by Thai immigration police and placed in an Immigration Detention Center (IDC) for two years. Watch her video testimony.

[Video transcribed]


“We got arrested by the Thai immigration police on 20 October 2009. And we got detained inside the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) for two years.

My mother and my brother went out to the hospital, so they did not get arrested. We were three  or four girls and we had to be put in a different cell. 

My mother voluntarily surrendered herself. She came into the IDC and she wanted to surrender herself because she wanted to take care of us.

It’s very hard to stay inside IDC because we have not enough space and not good food. We just have basic medicine.

I couldn’t continue my education in Bangkok but I got a lot of work experiences.”

For five years, twenty-year-old Thivya could not attend local school just because she is a refugee. Determined, she attended informal classes and volunteered as an English-Tamil interpreter for other refugees.

An unexpected decision gave her an opportunity to rebuild her life. After over five years in Bangkok, Thivya was resettled to the United States with her sisters and mother.


“Tomorrow, 5:55am, is a special day, which we were hoping for for years. Finally, when we lost all hope, it happened. And still I cannot believe it. Till I go there. I cannot believe it.”

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