Officials plan to deport 'illegal' youngsters

The Interior Ministry has come under fire for a Children's Day "gift" that will involve a change in the law and the deportation of stateless children born in Thailand.

  • Published: 13/01/2013 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

SLEEPER OF THE HOUSE: Two-year-old Naruesorn Khunsat takes a nap in the prime minister’s chair during Children’s Day activities at Government House Saturday. Each child was given a three-second photo opportunity in the PM’s chair, but the queue was so long that by the time it was Naruesorn’s turn, he was too tired to smile for the camera.

The legal change will see the children's status altered from one that is indeterminate to "illegal immigrant", allowing them to be deported to their parents' home country.

Human rights lawyer Surapong Kongchantuk, chairman of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's human rights subcommittee on ethnic minorities, the stateless, migrant workers and the displaced, cynically called the Interior Ministry's draft law a "gift" as preparations for it coincided with Children's Day Saturday.

He said the draft was being considered by state agencies and would be forwarded to the cabinet soon.

Though the Nationality Act states that children born in Thailand who do not have Thai citizenship must be listed as illegal immigrants, the now-dissolved National Legislative Assembly in 2008 agreed to stall its enforcement after a debate over its consequences.

Mr Surapong, who was among those who requested the delay in enforcement, said the assembly eventually resolved that even though children do not hold Thai nationality, they are viewed as innocent persons and their rights must be protected.

He also questioned whether stateless children should be punished under the law because they were born here and did not enter from another country.

The Interior Ministry's proposal would "make stateless children illegal persons who must be arrested under the Immigration Act and deported from the country", Mr Surapong said.

Worse, he added, the move completely ignores the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the constitution and the Child Protection Act.

"If the new ministerial law takes effect, millions of stateless children will be forced out of the country," Mr Surapong said.

"That will create the worst image ever for the government as one which treats children as criminals."

Instead of pushing for the change, Mr Surapong suggested the government draft another ministerial law to protect stateless children. It should give birth certificates to the children and give them the opportunity to live in Thailand legally.

About the author

Writer: Onnucha Hutasingh
Position: Writer

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