CHIANG RAI – The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR ) on Tuesday welcomed the Thai Government’s announcement that 18,773 formerly stateless people have been granted citizenship over the last three years.
There are some 443,862 stateless people in Thailand. Many of them are from hill tribes living in remote or border areas, with limited information on accessing to rights and nationality, the Department of Provincial Administration reported.
“It’s very encouraging to see that people who faced difficulties in accessing civil-status documentation, formal employment or health services as a result of their undefined legal status, are now recognised as Thai nationals and enjoy unrestricted access to rights and services as full members of the Thai society,” said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR’s representative in Thailand.
In Thailand’s northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Tak, (UNHCR) supports various initiatives aimed at facilitating access to nationality, through sensitization of communities, assistance in completing applications, follow-up on pending applications and counseling, in complementary with the important work done by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn focusing on greater access to nationality for school aged children and vulnerable persons.
In recent years, UNHCR has worked with the authorities to reach out to people who face difficulties in proving their nationality and often live in remote areas. The agency supported capacity building programs for nationality officers at district level and funded the deployment of mobile teams to remote villages.
“These figures and the commitment to the nationality application process at various levels of the national administration really show the potential for ending statelessness in Thailand,” Ms Menikdiwela said on Tuesday. “This is also the result of years of sustained efforts by civil society actors, research groups and civil servants of the Bureau of Registration Administration.”
“UNHCR hopes that Thailand’s progress in granting nationality can be a positive example to other countries in the region,” said Ms Menikdiwela , noting that there are more than 10 million stateless people worldwide, over 40 per cent of them from Asia.