More stateless students granted Thai citizenship

One week after granting four members of the Wild Boar soccer team Thai citizenship, the government extended that franchise to 304 more stateless people, most of the students, as it also collected DNA from over one hundred others who lack documentation in hopes of determining their nationality.

The United Nations praised Thailand last week for extending citizenship to the stateless Wild Boars. “Thailand has given them the chance to both dream of a brighter future and to reach their full potential,” said Carol Batchelor, the special adviser on statelessness at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “This is a shining example of how positive action by a state can aid people and quickly resolve their stateless situation.”

That shining example was replicated in the Thong Pha Phum district of Kanchanaburi province where 304 formerly stateless people took the oath of allegiance in a ceremony presided over by the deputy governor.

The new citizens, who ranged from primary school students to adults, were among 1,100 people who have received citizenship in Thong Pha Phum district this year. A total of 1,427 have applied in the district since January, and officials have completed screenings on 1,262 to determine if they qualify.

Authorities in nine districts in Kanchanaburi have also collected DNA from 114 stateless people in their area and sent the samples to Central Institute of Forensic Sciences to attempt to determine if they should be granted Thai citizenship.

Using DNA samples is a new approach by Thai officials to an old problem: a lack of birth registrations and other documentation among people, especially people living in border provinces, that are typically used to determine nationality. Those regions are home to many tribal peoples who traditionally and regularly roamed across the porous borders, and who often live in villages that were relatively isolated and hard to reach.

Their inhabitants may have been born in Thailand, but there was no physician or local official present to document that. Therefore, they have not been recognized as citizens.

In recent years, Thailand has been making a concerted effort to document as many tribal and other stateless people as possible, and grant citizenship to as many as possible as long as they meet the government’s criteria for citizenship.

U.N. officials have praised Thailand’s efforts in this regard as a positive example for other nations. Thailand has joined the U.N.’s Global Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024(#I Belong Campaign).