A legal status in Thailand changes life radically
In Thailand, Diakonia is working to improve the lives of stateless people, many of them belonging to ethnic minorities. Without a legal status, people are treated more or less as illegal immigrants. They are denied the same rights as other Thais, even though they are born within the country’s borders. Read the story about how Tha Ley Paw Lapwavakul’s life changed with new knowledge and support.
Tha Ley Paw was born and raised in a village on the banks of the Salwin River that separates Thailand and Myanmar. A mix of various ethnic groups lives in the area and most of them earn their living from fishing and selling small goods at the border, while some are farmers.
The village is remote and the way to town used to be arduous, so the villagers had a traditional way of living without using public services. Since they did not receive information about the importance of obtaining a legal status in the country, newborns were not registered.
Difficult to earn her living
But things became tougher with new restrictions for travelling across the border and more guards coming to the area. Tha Ley Paw was having a hard time earning her living since she did not have a legal status in Thailand. Planting vegetables and collecting wild things in the forest to sell was not enough for to support the family’s two children and she was always at risk of being arrested by the police when travelling outside the village in search for work. Stateless people in Thailand are not allowed to travel freely, and are fined when trying to do so. Some can travel within their home province; others need to apply for permission whenever they want to leave the village.
Are denied many rights
Stateless persons are also vulnerable to abuse and exploitation when working. Moreover, they are denied the right to public health care as well as the right to vote. Youths without citizenship that want to study at a higher level need to pay the same fees as foreigners.
But within a project aimed at helping students and their families to obtain legal status, Diakonia’s partner organization DCCN, the Development Center for Children and Community Network, introduced themselves to Tha Ley Paw’s village. They informed the citizens about the benefits of a legal status and how to apply for it. They also offered support on how to follow the complicated process of obtaining this status.
Now she travels without fear
Tha Ley Paw wanted a future for her children without limitations. She decided to pursue the legal status for the family that she now was aware she had a legal right to claim. It was a hard struggle with a lot of bureaucracy, but Tha Ley Paw was patient. During the process, she found support from other villagers, who shared their experiences of the verification process. And finally, she was granted full Thai citizenship for herself and her children.
Now she can travel without fear and her children can choose to study whatever they like. With her new knowledge, she is now happy to be able to support other villagers that have not obtained legal status yet.