First, I want to set the scene for my readers. Some people have a hard time grasping the idea of citizenship work. It's not really "sexy" work like rescuing children from brothels. Also, with many from Texas to California, the idea of helping people gain citizenship can be controversial. It's not much different in Thailand, except that almost half a million are legally entitled to citizenship.
Now imagine you are the person without citizenship. You were born in the village, and your parents probably were, too. You nor your parents can read or write. You can speak some Thai, but your parents only know the language of your village. For generations, you have farmed the land. Most seasons you produce enough for your family and some to share with the village. After the drought last season and the heavy rains this season, it has become dangerous to depend only on the land. You realize you need to seek work. But you face a few roadblocks:
Since you are not a legal citizen of the country of your birth, the risks must be weighed:
- Legally, you cannot work. If caught, you could be arrested or fined.
- Not many jobs remain for uneducated people.
- If you leave your district (county), you can be arrested and fined.
- Individuals and government officials don't mind sharing their prejudice against your lot.
- If someone tries to exploit you or harm you, a good chance exists that law enforcement will not come to your aid.
As our director says, citizenship is not just a card; it's life.
Everyone has a home, but for many hill tribe people, they have few rights in their home. Citizenship allows one the following rights:
- To work,
- To an education,
- To healthcare,
- To travel in Thailand,
- To obtain disability benefits,
- To purchase land,
- and more.
After seeing how long this entry is already, I'll stop here with a challenge. Picture yourself in your home. You have lived there your entire life. But now someone is saying you don't belong and that this is not your home. What is the just outcome?