CHIANG MAI, THAILAND – La-aw drives down a dirt road, winding through hilly countryside dotted with villages of varying sizes. Though the road is not drawn on many maps, La-aw knows the route from Chiang Mai into the tiny villages well. She and other IJM Thailand staff make frequent rounds into the rural villages to help families get citizenship.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND – Mali* has lived in the same mountainous village for all 9 years of her life. Her mother, Bua,* grew up there too. Bua's brother is their village leader. Everyone knows the family, and yet, this mother and daughter have been repeatedly denied basic rights their entire lives—because they did not have the citizenship papers they were entitled to under Thai law.
Entitled to but Denied the Rights of a Citizen
Members of one of northern Thailand’s nine hill tribes, Buter and her husband Ahsuer spent years scavenging for food just to have enough to eat to survive. They could not travel to find better opportunities elsewhere in Thailand, and their children couldn’t access the opportunity that education would offer them. Why? Because Buter and Ahsuer – like thousands of other hill tribe members – lacked simple documentation that would entitle them to the basic benefits of Thai citizenship.