Thailand grants citizenship to over 500 stateless students

A total of 548 stateless students were granted citizenship by Thai authorities last week as part of an ongoing and comprehensive effort to resolve the problem of statelessness in the Kingdom. Most of the students were members of hill tribes, ethnic minority groups or displaced persons residing in the Kingdom.


During the ceremony at a community hall in northern Mae Hong Son province, a province that is home to many hill tribes and ethnic peoples, Grisada Boonrach, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Interior, handed out national identification cards to the 548 students. Grisada gave a speech in which he encouraged the students to dedicate themselves to getting a good education so they can contribute to the country in their new role as citizens.

Mae Hong Song Governor Suebsak Aiemwijarn also attended the ceremony with representatives of several nongovernmental organizations that have been working on the issue of statelessness. They included the Legal Status Network Foundation, the Development Center for Children and Community Network, the Social Life Project, Thailand Lahu Development Foundation, the International Justice Mission and the 19th District of the Church of Christ in Thailand.

Thailand has committed itself to ending statelessness in the Kingdom by 2024. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 23,000 people have been granted Thai nationality during the past four and a half years.

But there is much more to do, as the agency said that there are over 438,000 people in Thailand who are officially registered as stateless. “Many stateless people and those at risk of statelessness in Thailand come from areas where national borders have changed, leaving their nationality in question. Some belong to “hill tribes” living in remote areas with limited access to information about nationality procedures and who, in the past, lived without registration or identity documentation,’’ the agency said on its website.

At the end of last year, the agency issued a statement praising the progress made by Thailand in reducing statelessness. It followed a Thai Cabinet resolution on “Guidance and Measures to Address Legal Status Problems and Problems of Stateless Persons in Thailand,” that UNHCR said could result in 80,000 students gaining citizenship.

The“resolution builds on measures announced in the past few years by expanding the scope of eligibility and clarifying the criteria and procedures involved,” said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s Representative in Thailand. “They show the Royal Thai Government’s strong political will to reduce statelessness among children.”

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