Diakonia - People change the world
- I’ve been striving for my rights to get a legal status for many years now, and I will never give up, says Wanida, an 18-year old stateless student from the remote district of Sobmoei, Mae Hong Son Province.

Stateless child Wanida´s identity was stolen

The freedom of stateless people in Thailand is limited. Wanida is one of many children who recieved help from Diakonia’s partner to apply for legal citizenship. A process that can be both long and unfair. Now she wants to use her knowledge to help other students.

As a stateless person Wanida has to apply for permission every time she wants to travel outside her home district and at secondary school her friends mocked her and called her an alien. 

- But worst of all, the scholarship at my school was only open for people with a legal status, so I wasn’t allowed to apply, says Wanida.

Difficult to register

Wanida was born in the mountainous and isolated Mae Rama community in Northern Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. Since the village is very remote many newborn babies are not officially registered. Not until the second grade at school, her parents decided to add Wanida and her siblings’ names to an official register at the district office.
- I remember the long walk, it took us the whole day, she says.
But when her father died, the family moved to another district. A district that considered the family as stateless since they were registered elsewhere.

Right to defend my rights

Wanida realized the situation could be solved when she came in contact with, DCCN.
- I attended the legal status and citizenship classroom, organised by DCCN, and learnt that everyone has a right to defend their rights.

Club for stateless students

Through the DCCN project Wanida began to understand the importance of a legal status and the consequences of being stateless. She learnt how to collect relevant information and background documents about herself in order to go through a verification process to prove her status. Ever since Wanida applied for legal status she has been following the authorities’ work on her petition for legal status, and she discovered that responsible authorities are not performing their duty well. Now she is thinking about setting up a club for stateless students to share information and experiences.

- When I asked the district officer about the progress of my case, I was always told to wait and wait. I went there so many times that I remember every curve in the road to the district office. Even with my eyes closed I can find my way there” she says with tiredness in her eyes.

Wanida´s identity was stolen

When Wanida’s application finally was approved, she went there only to discover that her name had been replaced by someone else’s, probably due to corruption. Later Wanida was contacted by a person telling her to pay a big amount of money if she wanted her rights back. Wanida didn’t accept this and wanted to file a lawsuit. But the head of the village didn’t dare to support her and her mother claimed a lawsuit would mean risking their lives.

Wants to help stateless children

It will be difficult for Wanida to prove her legal status again, but she still has a chance thanks to the key documents she has. 

- I am not expecting to get it very soon as I know it takes time, maybe even longer this time than before. But thanks to DCCN, I got the knowledge and the confidence. Being stateless doesn’t have to stop me from pursuing my dreams. In the future I hope to be working at the district office, helping stateless children like myself.

Story told to Komson Phayonsakdapas, Program Officer at Diakonia Thailand.