Boonmee: Life with(out) Rights

Sep 30, 2023

Nationality and citizenship of Thai identity card holders show fundamental Thai citizenship rights and welfare. However, according to the central registration office, the department of provincial administration (2022) stated that the number of stateless people, so-called by the Thai government offices “people without registration status”, is 973,656; along Thai-Lao border, in Ubon Ratchathani province in particular, one of 8,181 stateless people including the middle-age woman named Boonmee (fictious name), 

Boonmee living in a village on the bank of the Mekhong river in Palan district revealed the reason she had not had any “Thai card”. Her mother is Thai and her father is Lao. Her mom did not report her birth; Boonmee did not have a birth certificate. For all 45 years of her life, Boonmee had never accessed to Thai citizen rights and welfare as the saying goes, “No cards, no rights, no money”. From the matter of fact that she is Thai by heredity, she did not dare to access the nationality prove due to its high cost. As a result, she had to be “the missing out Thai” encountering various difficulties in daily life. 

Fortunately, Boonmee has been supported by the Health and Share Foundation (HSF) during her serious illness with  fungal infection in the brain causing seizure in Sappastthiprasong Hospital. She could not process the nationality prove due to the distance since the closest service hospital at that time was Srinagarund Hospital in Khon Kan. During Boonmee’s serious symptom, HSF coordinated with concerned organizations including the Institute of Forensic Science, the Housing Development Foundation, and Sappastthiprasong Hospital for permission to collect her specimen for the DNA test.

From her case study, the system of collecting specimens for DNA test has been developed by building a specimen collecting node in Sappastthiprasong Hospital. Finally, after processing of the nationality prove for almost a year, Boonmee has got her Thai card making her a Thai citizen; she has got her universal coverage scheme (UCS) for health care expense. In the past, she had had to borrow someone’s money. Nowadays, she has felt her self-esteem and dignity; she does not have to worry neither about her illness nor the expense for the treatment. Boonmee case is the “initial point” for the system supporting other stateless people to access the test easier without transportation expenses as before. 

In Boonmee case, she has gained supports of fee for the paternity testing (DNA) between Boonmee and her half sister (different father), including budget for transportation to contact government offices concerned. Under the close supervision of the village leaders empowered by HSF to solve the problems of accessibility to rights and health services among the stateless people living in Thai-Lao border area. Boonmee case caused expansion to the others; screening system by community has been developed for taking the people with nationality problems to the nationality prove process until they have got Thai identity cards. Within 3 years of health and right promotion project, 56 stateless people have become Thai citizens.