Diakonia - People change the world
Brialai Saewue is not giving up on his Thai citizenship.

He's been denied his rights due to power abuse

Brialai Saewue is born and raised in Thailand. He is also a Hmong and as many other ethnic minorities he lacks Thai citizenship. Brialai Saewue has been struggling for the last six years to finally gain the citizenship, but due to power abuse his case has been delayed.

“I have sued the district office for ignoring my application” he says, empowered by the knowledge he received from trainings on the criteria for citizenship.

Brialai Saewue, lives with his two wives and eight children in a village in the mountainous area of northern Thailand.  The family is poor and in need of the benefits that come with Thai citizenship. Stateless persons are not allowed to own land or to travel outside their home provinces, which limits the opportunities for employment. When working, stateless persons are often paid less than Thais.  Without Thai citizenship, Brialai’s children can only access free education up to primary level.

The brother has Thai citizenship

When Brialai’s brother received his Thai citizenship more than 17 years ago, Brialai decided to move with his family to the same village as his brother. He thought the process for a citizenship would be easier living in the same village as a sibling with a Thai citizenship. But it turned out to be a mistake.

Brialai looks tired while telling about his citizenship application process. He says that the headman in the village had a personal land conflict with his brother and therefore has been unsupportive in Brialai’s and his family’s case. So far, only Brialai's second wife and her children have been granted the citizenship. 

“My documents have been questioned by the authorities, since the spelling of our parents name is slightly different in my documents compared to my brother’s.”

To expensive to collect evidence

The district office required Brialai to present DNA evidence, but Brialai and his family couldn’t afford it.

Brialai only speaks a little Thai. And even though he can’t read the documents he is holding in his hands, he still remembers well what kind of information they contain. He and his family have been in the application process for more than six years.

Diakonia’s partner organization, The Mirror Foundation, TMF, is working for the rights of stateless persons in Thailand. The organization has chosen Brialai and his family as a case study to hold the district office accountable for the legal framework process. Over 100 households in Brialai’s village are stateless and through Brialai’s case other stateless people will gain knowledge of the law and the criteria for citizenship.

Hopes the case will serve as an example

According to TMF’s legal team the district office ignored Brialai’s application until it expired, without informing Brialai.

“I have also learned that it wasn’t necessary for me to prove my relationship to my brother with DNA since I myself am eligible to receive citizenship according to the law”, says Brialai.

With the support from TMF, Brialai has sued the district office for neglecting his application. He wants to appeal on the decision as well as compensation for the power abuse. TMF is hoping the case will serve as an example for other district offices to follow as well.

“I think I will win”, says Brialai.

Story told to: Thitirat Borerakwana, Programme Officer at Diakonia in Thailand.