Kanchanaburi: A group of 342 stateless people have pledged to be good citizens in a ceremony held in this western province to formally grant them Thai citizenship.
They were among 971 people, mostly from ethnic minority groups, recently declared Thai nationals -- a status they viewed as necessary to obtaining better jobs and an improved standard of living.
All were born and reside in Kanchanaburi's remote Thong Pha Phum district adjacent to Myanmar.
"Students were the main beneficieries in this round of examining applications for Thai citizenship," deputy Kanchanaburi governor Bowansak Wanit told the ceremony, held in the district yesterday.
The governor wants officials in Thong Pha Phum and other districts where stateless people are residing to step up the application review process, he said. This will allow the province to better monitor these people and screen them.
Thai villagers living near these people can also help with the screening, Mr Bowansak said.
Thong Pha Phum had up to yesterday received 1,459 applications. Most of the 971 successful applicants were aged over 18 years old.
"Citizenship is what I've been wanting for years," said Norae Pawiphonkun, a computer graduate from Kanchanaburi Rajabhat University. Ms Norae, an ethnic Karen, applied for Thai citizenship three times after starting university.
Other stateless people are still struggling to make a decent living because, without Thai citizenship, work is hard to find and movement around he country is restricted.
The number of stateless people in Thailand is estimated at more than 100,000, according to Santipong Moonfong, head of the Legal Status Network Foundation. Most live in provinces bordering Myanmar, including Chiang Rai, Tak and Kanchanaburi.
They include children born to illegal migrants or members of ethnic groups fleeing persecution.