Saturday, April 15, 2006

Thailand -- Mae Ai children still lack citizenship

This story seems rather odd. Maybe not enough money has gone under the table!

Bangkok Post: Children still lack citizenship
The nationality problem continues to dog the families of 1,243 Mae Ai villagers in Chiang Mai, despite a landmark verdict by the Supreme Administrative Court to return Thai citizenship to them. The Department of Provincial Administration (DPA) has refused to return Thai nationality to their children unless the group comes up with evidence to convince the authorities.

One of the villagers, Boon Phongma, 42, said almost 100 children have been unable to obtain Thai citizenship although they were born in Thailand.

The department's refusal might go against the 1965 Nationality Act, which automatically gives citizenship to children born of legally-wed Thai parents.

The children were born to some of the 1,243 Mae Ai ethnic villagers whose citizenship was revoked between April 2002 and Sept 2005, when the DPA removed their names from the house registration list. The DPA cancelled their nationality after a scandal in which some state officials took bribes to produce fake identity cards.

The villagers sued the department in the Administrative Court. DNA tests were undertaken to prove the villagers' nationality. Their citizenship was returned after the court ruled on Sept 8, 2005 that the DPA's action was illegal.

''We are again Thai citizens. Surprisingly, some of us have found that our children are not,'' said Mrs Boon, also head of the Mae Ai Human Rights Group.

''District officials have insisted these children must go through a citizenship verification process. Their parents must provide evidence of their birthplaces and answer questions like whether they are real parents. That's a painful process and should not happen to Thais,'' she said.

The DPA has insisted on investigating the citizenship of the children born to the 1,243 villagers on a case-by-case basis.

''If they want Thai nationality for their children, they have to follow the registration process. These children will become Thai if they have proper birth certificates,'' said DPA deputy secretary-general Suwat Tunprawat.

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