The Mirror Foundation NGO
Published: 13 September 2016
Two young hilltribe girls, aged 14 and 16, have been returned to their homes after spending nearly three years in Malaysia.
The girls, whose names are protected for their safety, were lured into going south, to Hat Yai, for work. But, the individual that promised them work, took the girls straight across the border, into Malaysia. They were imprisoned, and would have spent many years in a brothel, had they not escaped within two days and gone to the police. Arrests were made and the girls were out of danger.
The saga didn't end there though, because the girls are without Thai citizenship. When the Malay police came to send them back across the border, and home, the Thai authorities refused them entry as they had no passport or documentation to show their nationality.
Because of this legal stumbling block, the girls were forced to spend two and a half years in a Malaysian refuge, without hope of returning to their home.
At this point we became aware of the issue from relatives, who came for advice from our legal centre (part of our Thai Citizenship project). Once the team looked into the details, we were able to secure temporary documents, allowing them to legally enter Thailand. Now that they are back home, and their parents are Thai citizens already, we can begin the process to gain citizenship for both girls.
It may seem strange that the girls are without citizenship, while their parents have it - one of the anomalies of the law is that children are not automatically given citizenship, even if they are born in Thailand.