The lack of Thai citizenship is a serious problem facing hilltribe people in Thailand. Without Thai citizenship an individual is effectively a non-person; they are unable to vote, buy land, seek legal employment or travel between provinces. They are also denied access to free government healthcare, and certain restrictions remain in education. Currently, about 50% of all hilltribe peoples who have a legitimate claim to Thai citizenship remain without it.
The process of acquiring Thai citizenship is a long and difficult one complicated by bureaucracy and considerable corruption. The process is further complicated with hilltribe people illegally entering Thailand each year, in an effort to escape the situation in Myanmar. To gain Thai citizenship, one must prove that both the applicant, and at least one of the parents, were born in Thailand. Lack of birth documentation for those born in remote villages makes this restriction a compounded obstacle. A child who needs to prove that one of their parents was born in Thailand, must first prove that one of their grandparents was born in Thailand, and so on.
The Mirror Foundation has attacked the problem of Thai citizenship in a number of ways. At the most basic level, we help guide people, who may speak and read little or no Thai, through this complex process. We also have used the internet to lead a vocal campaign against corrupt local officials and to compile a database of the nationality details of local villagers, so that government officials can complete the process more quickly and efficiently. On a national level, we continue to lobby for more favorable citizenship laws for hilltribe people. To date, The Mirror Foundation has assisted over 2,000 people in acquiring Thai citizenship, and is working toward acquiring citizenship for another 4,000 tribal people within Mae Yao sub-district, born legally in Thailand, who remain without citizenship.