Title: Stateless People's Needs and Problems in Obtaining Thai Nationality: A Case Study of Hill Tribe People in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Author: Aticha Wongwian
Keywords:NATIONALITY/ CITIZENSHIP/ STATELESSNESS/ STATELESS PEOPLE/ NATIONALITY-LESS PEOPLE/ NEEDS/ PROBLEMS/ NATIONALITY OBTAINING/ PROCESS/ HILL TRIBES/ MINORITIES/ CHIANG RAI THAILAND
The problem of statelessness in Thailand remains unsolved mainly because the country's policies on granting nationality do not cover all kinds of stateless people existing in Thailand. However, statelessness in people who actually have the right to Thai nationality according to Thai law is found to be a continuing problem because stateless people cannot cope with difficulties that occur during the process of Thai nationality obtaining. This research aims to study the needs and problems of stateless people in obtaining Thai nationality. The research relies upon a combination of documentary research and field research. The field research includes the researcher's observation and participation in assisting hill tribe people to obtain Thai nationality during an internship at the Mirror Foundation in January-February 2009 and in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with twelve selected cases of former stateless hill tribe people in Chiang Rai Province. The key informants were selected based upon their availability, through the networking of the Mirror Foundation as well as district offices, and through the snowball technique. The research found that the main problems of former stateless people in obtaining Thai nationality were access to information regarding Thai nationality obtaining and the problem corruption. The first problem was caused by three factors: the sources of information, the forms of the information and methods in passing on the information, and the stateless people themselves. The main sources of information such as village chiefs, NGOs and district officers were unknowledgeable. Moreover, personal bias or misled attitudes among village chiefs and the officials made it difficult for stateless people to acquire the information. At the same time, the research found that the information was passed to the people in verbal form and mainly through interpersonal communication, leading to misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Furthermore, the research found that interpersonal communication between district officials and stateless people was not possible since the people felt uncomfortable approaching officials. Moreover, illiterate stateless people were not capable of understanding written information. Because of the problem of access to information, the people were not able to cope with difficulties in nationality obtaining procedures and usually failed in obtaining Thai nationality. Moreover, this problem also affected stateless people's states of mind as well as leads to the problem of corruption. Stateless people who could not help themselves in obtaining Thai nationality tended to rely on assistance from outside, usually from village chiefs. As a result, stateless people became potential victims of corruption by village chiefs.
The basic need of stateless people in obtaining Thai nationality is obviously knowledge about the procedures and laws in obtaining Thai nationality. In this regard, written forms of information should be used more while still maintaining usage of verbal communication. Written forms of information and direct verbal communication between stateless people and state officials will reduce the gap in information and risk of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Equipped with necessary information, stateless people may successfully process their request by themselves or with less assistance from others. This may also reduce the role of village chiefs and therefore reduce the chance of corruption. However, assistance on the practical level is still needed for stateless people who lack Thai literacy and in complicated procedures that required advance knowledge such as appealing.
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