The route to solve the problem of stateless people in Thailand
The resolution of the Cabinet on December 7th 2016, was followed by an announcement from the Ministry of Interior on March 14, 2017, unlocking the criteria for long-term foreigners living in Thailand. Many people see it as moving in a positive direction. But the new criteria still have conditions, and there are many people who fail the investigation - especially displaced persons in Mae Sot district (Tak Province), even though they believe they are Thai.
Children from the Saw Learning Centre are being ordained as novice monks at Wat Thai in Mae Sot district, Tak province, with friends joining in the ceremony. Even though child is stateless, and most are orphans under the care of the centre, these children understand and speak Thai very well.
One girl, named Tanita, is 14 years old. She is studying at Secondary School, grade 2. She says she dreams of having Thai citizenship, in order to have a better life and future after graduation.
Saw Learning Center
Saw Learning Centre is a school which opens up opportunities for stateless children, most of whom are Burmese. Now, the centre’s status is recognized as a social assistance foundation for children and women. There are 169 children in their care, of which only four are Thai while the rest are Burmese. Even though the school has expanded the opportunities for stateless children for a number of years, it's curriculum still has a problem because it is not registered with the Ministry of Education.
Stateless people living in Thailand
Some people, even though they have lived in Thailand for many years, appear still not to have begun the process open to them through the government services. This leads to many not receiving the rights and freedoms granted by law – this problem affects not just a small minority or particular ethnic group, or migrants. There are displaced Thais who are facing this problem too.
Displaced Thais who live in Mae Sot district (Tak province), but still did not have Thai citizenship met with the deputy district leader of Mae Sot and the director of the Karen Development Centre. After the court ruling, some villagers received Thai nationality, but there are still 351 waiting to hear from the Administrative Court.
Another hope of stateless people in Thailand, who have lived in the country for many years, is the announcement from the Ministry of Interior (March 14, 2016) and issued by the Cabinet on December 7, 2016. This has approved the principle of increasing the opportunity for receiving Thai nationality, allowing stateless people – who were born, and have been living, in Thailand for may years - to be eligible for citizenship. The beneficiaries are divided into two major groups.
People with parents from minority groups, which are mainly hilltribes, who have lived on Thai soil for many years, and are already in the government’s registration system. The final year of birth that this is applicable is 1999. People who fall into this group can receive Thai citizenship immediately.
This applies to people who: have lived in Thailand for many years; were born in Thailand; grew up in Thai society; with parents from minority groups; and have a university degree. People who can tick all these boxes can also receive Thai citizenship immediately.
The total number of people that these two policies affect could be as many as 100,000.
Even though the new announcement from the Ministry of Interior is good news for stateless people, those who work in this field note that the group where there is still concern are the displaced Thais.
The resolution of the problem of statelessness in Thailand requires continued commitment from all responsible agencies, which if managed will help to prevent a variety of social problems, especially crime, and reduce disparity in our society.