Stateless, Not Fateless : Indigenous Communities, Citizenship Policy, and Human Rights in the Hills of Northern Thailand
Dolce, Emma Michiko
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According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 500,000 stateless persons currently residing in Thai land. These groups number roughly 1.1 million people, or approximately 11% of the population (Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact 2010). While they are commonly referred to as a unified whole, the highland peoples of Thailand are actually made up of numerous ethnic minority and indigenous groups. The condition of being stateless manifests itself in many ways. Highland peoples are the victims of discrimination at the hands of both the Thai government and Thai society as a whole. This discrimination comes in different forms. Non-citizens have less access to healthcare, education, and other social services than Thais enjoy. Highlanders are frequently the victims of human trafficking and unfair labor practices with little protection from the state and thus experience high levels of poverty. The purpose of this monograph is to discern the root causes of statelessness. Why is it so prevalent in a relatively "developed" and "democratic" country such as Thailand? Why does it so disproportionally affect minority groups? And finally, what can and should be done about it? The author posits that the statelessness of highland groups in Thailand is rooted in the long history of their exclusion from the Thai, or indeed any, state. It is also clear that despite "relative" levels of development and democracy, Thailand still has a ways to go before it can truly claim to be a liberal and representative democracy. However, one way to improve democratic conditions throughout the country is through increased access to citizenship for all. Therefore, not only should the Thai government increase access to citizenship, it is essential to Thailand's future as a true liberal democracy. The author reviews the history and policies and offers solutions for change.