Human Rights Study Shows that Obstacles to Citizenship in Thailand Lead to Vulnerability to Human Trafficking
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 10:41 AM

Vital Voices Global Partnership announces its new study, 'Stateless and Vulnerable to Human Trafficking in Thailand.' This report examines the legal obstacles to obtaining citizenship for tribal people in northern Thailand and their subsequent vulnerability to human trafficking.

“This is a comprehensive research project that examines the complicated legal challenges to citizenship facing tribal people in northern Thailand,” stated Ms. Melanne Verveer, Co-Founder and Chair of the Board, Vital Voices Global Partnership.

Thailand has long committed itself to eliminating modern-day slavery. It has put many laudable policies and programs in place to combat human trafficking, a global challenge that knows no boundaries. However, as the Government of Thailand readily acknowledges, the country remains a source, destination and transit country for the trade of human beings. There are many contributing factors to human trafficking, including poverty, lack of education and awareness among at-risk groups, and a high demand for labor and sexual exploitation. As the study shows, the lack of citizenship also directly leads to vulnerability to human trafficking.

According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, while more than half of hill tribe villagers in Thailand have Thai citizenship, hundreds of thousands of villagers remain without nationality. “The consequences associated with lacking citizenship, such as the inability to access state benefits like healthcare services or education or travel permits to freely travel around Thailand, imposes huge impediments on villagers applying for jobs outside their villages. As a result, they become more vulnerable to exploitation, the black-market and human trafficking. If trafficked, victims without proof of citizenship receive limited protection, little assistance and may be denied re-entry into Thailand,” says the report.     

“While there have been many regulations and resolutions drafted by the Cabinet of Ministers, the Ministry of Interior and other departments in Thailand that attempt to address the citizenship issue, the process for obtaining citizenship in Thailand remains extremely complicated and difficult,” said Wenchi Yu Perkins, Director of Human Rights of Vital Voices Global Partnership.

“Our study argues that improving access to citizenship would eliminate a significant factor contributing to human trafficking in Thailand,” stated Perkins. The report recommends that Government of Thailand should implement measures such as: registering the birth of all children; improving the transparency of the citizenship application process; training local officials and people on the elements of the law and eliminating fees associated with the application process; and eliminating restrictions on travel, education, health care and employment for non-citizens during the application process.

“It took more than one year, with visits to northern Thailand, and numerous in-depth consultations with field experts and legal scholars to complete this study,” stated Verveer. “It would not have been possible without the generosity of the law firm, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, especially Orrick lawyer, Kathleen Kerr. The level of collaboration between the public and private sectors on this project has been remarkable.”

“We sincerely intend and hope that this report will serve as a positive contribution to the discussion of statelessness, one of the major root causes of human trafficking in Thailand and around the world, which will prompt more government actions and civil society solutions to address this serious problem of statelessness. Thailand is not alone in facing this challenge of statelessness and human trafficking. For example, the Roma populations in Europe, the stateless children in South Africa and Egypt, and many more vulnerable populations similarly demand the world’s attention and action,” remarked Perkins.

To read the full report, please click here (37 pgs. PDF).

For more information, please contact Wenchi Yu Perkins,

Published in: Human Rights Study Shows that Obstacles to Citizenship in Thailand Lead to Vulnerability to Human Trafficking, Vital Voices Global Partnership, June 2007.