Stateless kids seek equality

Stateless kids seek equality

Children living in fear of arrest

Stateless children and activist groups have urged Thai authorities to "urgently save their lives from inequality".

Co-hosted with PLAN Foundation, Foundation For Rural Youth (FRY) on Friday held a virtual meeting to open the floor to the stateless children or "G status" young citizens who say they are excluded from the social welfare system and being discriminated against in society.

Spokeswoman Ponthip Rungrueng said many stateless children were living in fear as they were afraid of being arrested for not having identification documents.

"Many of us cannot travel by ourselves. We don't even dare to go to a school trip because we are afraid of being arrested, as many of us have not got the documents that prove we were born in Thailand," Ms Ponthip said.

She said that the process of getting identification numbers for stateless people was slow and inefficient.

"Aside from these problems, the personal data that we had initially registered kept changing," she said.

"Our school had a hard time giving us formal school diplomas and sometimes we could not register for higher education."

She asked Thai authorities to register all children younger than 18 for citizenship, regardless of their nationality or stateless status, in Thailand.

"This method would allow us access to basic social welfare, as well as help authorities to manage criminal history," she said.

Tawan, another stateless girl from Myanmar, who was in her sophomore year, pointed out that many stateless and immigrant children are suffering from education inequality, as they are excluded from scholarships and school activities just because they were not Thai.

She revealed many of these children had to quit studying because they did not have identification numbers to get educational documents to seek a higher education.

"This problem seems to put out their fire," she said. "Many of them studied very well; however, when this problem happened, they had to abandon their university dreams and become forced labourers. Some quit during high school and become child labourers on construction sites."

She said the Thai curriculum on history should be revised as it encouraged racism toward these children as the textbooks often portrayed people from Myanmar as "enemies".

"I got smacked on my head by Thai boys when I was in high school. The teachers told them to smack Burmese people and shout 'Viva King Naraesuan' to fight back against the Burmese," she said.

Suriyasak Muan-ouob, head of the Registration Administration Bureau of the Interior Ministry, said he had been working for many years with stakeholders regarding stateless and immigrant children registration.

"In terms of the legal aspects, the door is open; however, for practicality, we have to admit that it is very slow, which has affected the rights of these children. I think it is time for us to brainstorm," he said.

He said that, regarding birth registration, the regulation is imposed on both Thai and non-Thai children.

"It is the role of staff to prove these kids' birth status," he said. "No matter how hard it is, they must try their best. If staff members discriminate against you or you are unhappy with the service, you can report it to the centre."

For the issue of the identification numbers, immigrant registration and personal data collection, he said that the bureau would manage these matters.

Chanwut Wongpeng, Bureau of Integrated Educational Affairs under the Education Ministry, said the bureau had been developing a "G-code" system to register a "G status" for stateless children in Thai education system for two to three years.

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