From Stateless to Citizen: Thailand’s path to citizenship for 80,000 stateless residents

A new resolution may let 80,000 stateless residents of Thailand apply for citizenship — something they haven’t been able to do before.

The resolution was passed by the cabinet on Dec. 7.

There are 438,821 registered stateless people living in Thailand. When the unregistered are also counted, the actual number is likely closer to two or three million, by estimation of the International Observatory on Statelessness.

These stateless people aren’t citizens of any country due to issues such as national borders that have moved over the years. Because many live in remote areas, they may have limited information about procedures and laws and have ended up stateless and without any sort of documentation about who they are.

In Thailand, the stateless include Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and members of hill tribes, such as the Karen, Mon and Hmong. These people can’t vote, travel, buy property or work legally with stateless status, reported BenarNews.

The new resolution would allow about 80,000 people that are the offspring of registered stateless people to begin the citizenship process.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, Grisada Boonrach, said that the newly-eligible people must be: born in Thailand with parents that are ethnic minorities, registered with the government and have resided in Thailand for at least 15 years.

Stateless youths whose parentage is unknown can apply after being certified by a state agency if they have lived in Thailand for 10 years.

According to Bangkok’s United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office, the country has given citizen status to 23,000 stateless people in the last five years and they hope to end statelessness within the next decade.

 

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