Experience in Solving Statelessness and Nationalitylessness in Thailand: Identification, Prevention, Reduction and Protection (IDENTIFICATION Part 1)

 A paper for the International Symposium on “Human Rights and Support for the Stateless People around the World: Japan’s Role” held by the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan, 26-27 February 2011. 

The very foremost experience for discussing in order to define specific procedure to solve statelessness and nationalitylessness in Thailand is to clearly determine that “who are those facing stateless and nationalityless problems in Thailand?” This initial determination helps to understand different problems which each group of the targeted people has been facing in various contexts. More, work process relating to solution for the stateless and nationalityless people will be enumerated more apparently by such determination.

 

According to researches on population management by studying true stories of stateless and nationalityless people, it can be concluded that there are three main groups of people facing stateless and nationalityless problems in Thailand. They are: 

 

(1)          Stateless Persons. These people are not recognized by any state in the world. They, therefore, are never registered into civil registration system of any state, even Thailand. Ignorance by any state leads to the situation, in which stateless people cannot exercise their right to a nationality also. In conclusion, stateless persons are in the most vulnerable situation facing problems relating to civil registration issues (not being recorded) as well as nationality issues (not be able to exercise right to a nationality).

Statelessness in Thailand may occur when a person was not entered registration at birth even though he or she, in fact, has Thai nationality. Charieng Eimla-or, a 50-year-old woman of Thai parents who has never been registered her birth and her existing as a Thai national into civil registration system, is a good example. She escaped from her broken home when she was only 9 years old. She decided to go back home when reaching the age to obtain  an identification card (15 years old), but it appeared that everyone has moved to another place without any clue. She became stateless until the last day of her life only because of lack of documentary evidence and witnesses for proof of her Thai nationality.

 

(2)          Nationalityless Persons. In Thailand, nationalityless people are divided from stateless ones even though both are still without nationality. Nationalityless people are registered into Thailand’s civil registration system. In this sense, nationalityless persons have been already recognized by the Thai state that they are people who have problems with their legal status living in Thailand. Most of the nationalityless people were formerly stateless, but once their problems were solved by law on civil registration (being recorded into the system), their statelessness was eradicated and only nationality problem remains.

Although Thailand is not a State Party to the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, Thailand obliges itself to almost every piece of international laws on human rights. That means Thailand cannot avoid the obligation under such instruments to protect people who suffer from the most vulnerable situation, statelessness and nationalitylessness, of human being. However, appropriate methods, according to the context of Thailand, are already chosen to solve the problems steps by steps.

As aforesaid, when stateless persons were found on Thai soil, Thailand would start tackling the problems by making records of these people into civil registration system. Even though these stateless people are indigenous to Thailand, or immigrant fleeing from fighting and living in Thailand for a long time, or migrant worker recently migrating to seek a better opportunity for work in Thailand, regardless of who stateless people are, Thailand will make them documented first. The problem of nationalitylessness will be considered after and it depends on individual facts. Moreover, during the process of nationalityless solving, these people will be able to have an access to basic human rights although they are not yet considered as a Thai national.

Vietnamese Immigrants[1] are one of nationalityless people in Thailand. They have fled into Thailand because of the war in their country. When they arrived, they were registered into a temporary civil registration system and issued identification card, formally named ‘Vietnamese Immigrants Card’ but now it was changed and called as ‘Card for Non-Thai National’.

In principle, these people should have entitled to the right to Vietnamese nationality as they were born in Vietnam or their ancestors were born in Vietnam or they had Vietnamese ethnicity, for example. As a matter of fact, since then, these Vietnamese have departed from the country of their origin for too long to confirm the connection with Vietnam which can be verified by any evidence, including identification document issued by the Vietnam’s government. Such document might have been lost gradually in time. These Vietnamese immigrants became stateless in reality because they could not verify themselves by any authenticated document. Only after they were recorded into civil registration system of Thailand, they were no more stateless, but they had become a so-called nationalityless person instead. Later when living longer until they have already assimilated in the Thai society, they will be entitled to ‘right to Thai nationality by application’. To prove the right is to verify such new connecting point they have had with the Thai state such as evidence of living in Thailand for a long and consecutive period, evidence of tax payment, or any evidence showing that they have a Thai family and so on.

 

(3)          Quasi-Nationalityless Persons. The last group was formed by phenomenon of globalization that makes world to connect entirely and people from different parts of the world to cross borders easily. Quasi-nationalityless people academically mean of those having their own nationality in fact, but they made a decision to settle in Thailand for too long to return to their countries of origin. Generally, these people seem not to face any problems like the other two whether it is a legal problem on civil registration or even on nationality. However, it is apparent that the original nationality of these people is not beneficial for their living in Thailand at all. In such situation, they are not that different from nationalityless persons.

In Thailand we found Boonyeun Suksaneh[2], an American missionary who gathered all family members, Wassana Suksaneh[3], a wife, and Udom Suksaneh[4], a two-year-old child, settling down in the forest in the north of Thailand. They have been living with Mlabri people in Rong Kwang District, Phrae Province since B.E.2521 (1978). The family really falls in love with Thailand and its culture. They decided to change their names and surname into Thai under American law even though it was quite difficult to do so. For all of these 33 years in Thailand, they decided not to return to their homeland anymore. And as a result of the new revision of nationality law in 2008, their younger daughter, Fongchan Suksaneh[5], born in Thailand have been already conferred a Thai nationality.



[1] Some of these Vietnamese had fled from oppression of France during B.E.2488 – B.E.2489. Most of them migrated from Vietnam or Lao P.D.R. living in 13 border provinces of Thailand: Nakorn Pranom, Mukdahan, Non Khai, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Yasothon, Sakon Nakhon, Amnat Charoen, Nongbua Lamphu, Sa Kaeo, Prachin Buri, Surat Thani, and Patthalung.

[2] Originally ‘Eugene Robert Long’ in the official US documents.

[3] Originally ‘Mary Elizabeth Long’ in the official US documents.

[4] Originally ‘Allen Robert Dean Long’ in the official US documents.

[5] Originally ‘Crystal Elizabeth Long’ in the official US documents.

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