A citizenship would open up her world
“To receive a citizenship would open the world for me. I would be able to apply for a scholarship to extend my studies, to travel and meet new people, and later to help the children living along the border with their education”, says 28-year-old Paw Kboe.
Paw Kboe was born in a village in northern Thailand, located by the Salween river bordering Thailand and Myanmar. Before the conflict between the Burmese government and Karen ethnic groups, the family lived a peaceful and traditional life. But the fighting tore their family union and life apart.
The family fled to Myanmar
“I was about 7-8 years old when we fled. Later I realized that we went was to Karen state on the Myanmar side. We settled down there since my father considered it was safe enough”.
When the situation improved, the family moved back to the village in Thailand. But by then Paw Kboe had lost many years of schooling; she hadn’t been able to attend school since the family fled. When she heard about boarding schools located in the refugee camps along the border, she decided to go. She took the risk to travel without any legal documents in order to reach Mae La refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp on the Thai side.
Can still recall the voices of the police
“I can still hear the voices of the police clearly in my mind. They called out for those without documents to step down from the flatbed of the truck. I was charged and fined 2000 baht.”
Paw Kboe stayed in the refugee camp until she had finished college. But in order to continue with higher studies, she needed the Thai citizenship that she was entitled to as she had been born in Thailand, but which her parents had never applied for.
To apply for legal documents is complicated
“To receive personal legal documents is a complicated and tiresome process. My two older brothers and father went to the district office three or four times. We waited and waited, without receiving anything. We used all our savings to pay travelling costs”, Paw Kboe says.
Eventually, her father and the brothers gave up on following their cases. Paw Kboe’s father declared that he no longer wanted a Thai identification card as he would continue to live his traditional life in the village. One brother stayed in the village helping the father with his farming. The other left to Bangkok to work illegally.
Did not want to give up
But Paw Kboe did not want to give up on her legal status. When she heard about the “Stateless Children Protection Project” which assists children to obtain their rightful legal status and citizenship, she decided to learn more about it.
“It was good news! I heard of lots of stateless children receiving the legal status and citizenship to which they were entitled with assistance from the project”, she says smiling.
Her dream might soon come true
Within the project, she received advice on how to restart the process to obtain legal status. She was told that she had all the necessary documents and that it should not be too difficult to obtain citizenship.
She looks happy when thinking that her dream of obtaining Thai citizenship might soon come true. Citizenship would not only benefit herself but also the rest of her family since they could then easily prove that they are Thais as well.