deems it necessary to reserve Thai nationality as a qualification
in certain fields of work and activity, such as the right
to participate in political activities, the right to serve
under certain government positions, the right to carry out
certain professions, e.g., lawyers, under the Advocates Act
(1985), the owning of land or certain immovable properties
under the Land Code, etc." - thus states Thailand's
Initial Periodic Report (CCPR/C/THA/2004/1) to the United
Nations Human Rights Committee.
Thailand comes up for hearing for the first time before the
United Nations Human Rights Committee on 19-20 July 2005,
the denial of the right to nationality to indigenous hill
tribes should become one of the most critical issues. Since
the enactment of Thailand Citizenship Act in 1965, indigenous
peoples have been "denied the vehicle for access to fundamental
rights, access to protection and access to expression as person[s]
under the law".
The Initial Periodic Report
of Thailand provides little information on the hill tribes.
The UN Human Rights Committee in its Working Group Meeting
in April 2005 sought further "information on the situation
of the members of hill tribes ("Highlanders") with
respect to their enjoyment of their rights under article 27
of the Covenant and their rights to freedom of movement, to
citizenship and to land/property."(CCPR/C/84/L/THA, List
Nothing to answer:
The right to citizenship
Thailand government has failed to make its responses to the
UN Human Rights Committee public. The Thailand government
has nothing to write home about on the denial of citizenship
4 August 2004, key UN agencies based in Bangkok including
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNESCO and UNDP and
a few international non-governmental organizations wrote a
joint letter to the government of Thailand on the birth registration
of children of non-citizens. As of today, Thailand government
has failed to provide any answer.
government of Thailand had expressed reservations to Article
7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child relating to
birth registration and the right from birth to a name, the
right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the
right to know and be cared for by his or her parents and Article
22 relating to refugee children. The government in its reservation
stated that "The application of articles 7, 22 .... of
the Convention on the Rights of the Child shall be subject
to the national laws, regulations and prevailing practices
reservation is contrary to Article 2 of the CRC which states
that "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights
set forth in the present Convention to each child within their
jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective
of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's
race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability,
birth or other status". It is also "incompatible
with the object and purpose" of the CRC as provided under
the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
The hill tribes of Thailand
have been adversely affected by Thailand's Nationality Act
of 1965 as amended in 1992. Section 7 provides that "A
person born within the Thai Kingdom of alien parents does
not acquire Thai nationality if at the time of his birth,
his lawful father or his father who did not marry his mother,
or his mother was: (1) the person having been given leniency
for temporary residence in Kingdom as a special case; (2)
the person having been permitted to stay temporarily in the
Kingdom; and (3) the person having entered and resided in
the Thai Kingdom without permission under the law on immigration."
Under this Act, hundreds
of thousands of indigenous peoples were declared "aliens"
and continue to be denied their rights. The first population
census was conducted in 1956 according to the National Household
Registration Act. However, the hill tribes were not covered
due to the lack of access to their villages, lack of officers
and prejudices. An official survey of the hill-tribes was
conducted in 1969-70 covering 16 provinces of Northern Thailand
and an estimated 111,591 people were officially recorded.
However, the enforcement of the Citizenship Act had already
made most hill-tribes aliens. The fact that most hill-tribes
could not speak in Thai made it difficult to prove their origin
even if they have been living for hundreds of years.
Colours of discrimination:
hill tribes continue to be issued different colours of identity
cards. Each colour reflects racial discrimination against
the hill tribes and violation of their right to freedom of
movement in the name of "maintaining the security of
the State, public order, public welfare, town and country
planning or welfare of the youth" (CCPR/C/THA/2004/1).
identity cards are used for highland people who were registered
in 1993 after "surveying of highland persons for the
issuance of personal history cards" in 1990-1991. This
card provides as to where the individual is currently residing
in Thailand and restricts all movement outside the surrounding
province. To travel out of the province or district, permission
must be sought from the district head. If the duration of
the travel is more than 10 days permission must be sought
from the Provincial Governor. Offenders of this restriction
face a heavy fine and a jail term. Holders of this card have
no right to employment in urban areas, education, the right
to buy land or even to purchase a car.
cards with a red border further restrict the rights and
freedom of movement. Holders of this card are restricted to
movement only within their immediate district and offenders
are once again subject to heavy fines and jail terms. This
card is given to those who were not registered in the first
round in 1993. These people are considered to have migrated
to Thailand since 1999, even though in reality the families
of many have resided in Thailand for generations.
card holders must seek permission from the district head
if they travel out of village or sub-district. To travel out
of the district, they must seek permission from the governor.
To travel out of the province, permission must be sought from
the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior.
People with no card may
not travel at all.
The present status
of granting citizenship:
To highlight the repression
and dispossession, in April 1999 four thousand representatives
of rural and highland peoples within the upper nine provinces
of Northern Thailand organized a protest rally at the Provincial
Office in Chiang Mai. They submitted a memorandum to ensure
basic human rights, citizenship, and control over land and
water resources. This peaceful gathering continued for about
one month and was finally dispersed by the government using
police and Forestry Officials.
After the protest, the
government decided to review the citizenship applications.
On 29 August 2000, the Cabinet adopted a resolution to complete
the review of citizenship applications by 28 August 2001.
Under the Cabinet Resolutions
the highland people were classified under three groups. The
first category consists of the highland people residing in
Thailand who migrated to Thailand between 1913 and 1972. It
was estimated that 100,000 people fall within this category.
The second category consists of highland people who migrated
to Thailand between the 14th of December 1972 and the 3rd
of October 1985 and are eligible for permanent resident status.
Their children are eligible for full Thai citizenship. Approximately,
90,000 hill tribes fall into this category. The third category
consists of highland people who have allegedly migrated after
3 October 1985 and are considered "alien and illegal"
and can be forcibly removed from the country. Approximately
220,527 persons fall under this category.
The process of reviewing
the citizenship applications was to have been completed within
one year. Since then the Cabinet of the government of Thailand
adopted resolutions on 28 August 2001, 27 August 2002, 26
August 2003 and 24 August 2004 respectively.
Yet, according to the
Highland Peoples Task Force, as on 24 August 2004, there were
377,677 individuals, including highland peoples, who did not
have Thai citizenship or any legal status. Of these, 90,739
were original hill tribes eligible to apply for Thai citizenship,
another unknown numbers were eligible to apply under para
7 of the Nationality Act of 1965 and about 2,20,527 were eligible
to apply for legal migrants status.
The process of granting
citizenship has been marred by discriminatory laws and procedures,
apathy and prejudices against the hill tribes, corruption
by the bureaucrats, excessive powers in the hands of the District
Chief, lack of any judicial or quasi-judicial oversights over
the process and the lack of cooperation with the civil society
as second class citizens:
who are accorded citizenship by naturalisation are treated
as second class citizens and do not enjoy all rights accorded
to the citizens by birth. Section 19 of the Thailand's Nationality
Act provides that the Minister is empowered to revoke Thai
nationality of a person who acquires Thai nationality by naturalisation
if it appears that:
"(1) The naturalisation
was effected by concealment of facts or making any statement
false in material particular;
(2) There is evidence to show that he still makes use of his
(3) He commits any act prejudicial to the security or conflicting
the interests of the State, or amounting to an insult to the
(4) He commits any act contrary to public order or good morals;
(5) He has resided abroad without having a domicile in Thailand
for more than five years;
(6) He still retains the nationality of the country at war
revocation of Thai nationality under this section may extend
to children of a person whose Thai nationality is revoked
in case such children are not sui juris and acquire
Thai nationality under Section 12, paragraph two and the Minister
shall, after the order for revocation of Thai nationality
has been given, shall submit the matter to the King for information."
The term "prejudicial
to the security or conflicting the interests of the State,
or amounting to an insult to the nation" or "contrary
to public order or good morals" are undefined legal terms.
What constitutes "insult to the nation" is not defined
under any law. Prostitution can be defined as an act contrary
to "good morals" and naturalised citizens who might
be the victims of trafficking and forced into "prostitution"
can be deprived of the right to citizenship.
The fact that the Minister
can revoke such nationality without being subject to judicial
scrutiny is scandalous and shows the lack of independence
Conclusion and recommendations:
institutionalised discrimination of the Thailand government
had devastating effects on the hill-tribes. As the Thailand
government states in its Initial Periodic Report "The
Department of Public Welfare has set up 97 child care centers,
8 provisional schools and cooperate with agencies under the
Ministry of Education to bring education services to hill
tribe communities who shall enter the ordinary educational
system with the knowledge of the Thai language". The
fact that indigenous children are not taught in their mother
tongues in clear violation of the Article 27 of the ICCPR
has devastating effects on the hill-tribes. The enrollment
of the hill tribe children in primary education is 51.19%
compared to 87% national average.
hill tribes have been disproportionate victims of the socalled
Master Plan for Highland Community Development, War Against
Drug, forced evictions from their lands and houses, and other
natural and forest conservation activities by the government.
UN Human Rights Committee must address the institutionalised
discrimination against the hill-tribes, among others, by recommending
to the government of Thailand, in its Concluding Observations,
to (1) take steps to incorporate fully the provisions of the
Covenant in domestic law, so that individuals may invoke them
directly before the courts and consider to ratifying the Optional
Protocol to the Covenant, enabling the Committee to receive
individual communications relating to Thailand, (2) amend
the Nationality Act of 1965 by deleting its Section 7 and
Section 19, (3) process the citizenship applications of the
hill-tribes within a specified time frame; (4) lift all the
restrictions on the freedom of movement and enjoyment of the
rights accorded under the ICCPR, and (5) allow judicial oversight
on the citizenship applications which are rejected by the
officials of the Ministry on Interior to ensure that the processing
of the applications conform to the due process of law, law
of natural justice and Thailand's obligation under international
human rights law.