Stateless kids defy odds and win Hong Kong award

Somboon and Kitiya Rimpu are stateless children as they were born to Myanmar migrant parents. The siblings were given a chance to study at Suan Lumpini primary school, where they joined the school's marching band.

DRUMMING UP SUPPORT: Suan Lumpini school pupils are welcomed back at Suvarnabhumi airport after winning first prize at the Hong Kong Marching Band Festival. PHOTO: PATIPAT JANTHONG

Somboon, 14, was the snare drum player and field commander, while his sister Kitiya, 12, performed a colour guard.

The school's marching band has won first-prize awards on many stages and they were invited by the Hong Kong Marching Band and Drum Corps Association to participate in a contest in early January.

The problem was that as stateless children, Somboon and Kitiya could not make the trip unless they won the approval of the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and China's embassy.

The kids, parents, and teachers spent several weeks visiting various government agencies to obtain the required documents and seek permission from state authorities.

As the international competition drew near, the siblings still were unable to obtain approval to travel abroad. They fell deep into despair to the point that they gave up hope and told their teachers that they would like to quit the band so other students could take their place.

The kids said their Myanmar father also wanted them to withdraw from the contest because he was afraid that their stateless, non-Thai status would invite more problems for the family in the future.

The band's trainer, Thaworn Yoosabai, did not allow the siblings to withdraw as they were such skilled performers.

The story of the stateless pair caught the media's attention and human rights groups stepped in to offer advice and legal assistance.

Eventually, the brother and sister were given approval to fly out and they did not leave Thais disappointed as the marching band won first prize for its eight-minute show.

The many hours of practice which Somboon and Kitiya put into their routines inspired other underprivileged people and the public at large.

About the author

Writer: Lamphai Intathep
Position: Reporter