24 June 2009

The stateless classrom

At a UNICEF-supported stateless classroom, students are asked to write down as much information about themselves as they can. © UNICEF Thailand/2009/Athit Perawongmetha

Story by Nattha Keenapan

(The storywas published in the Bangkok Post on June 23, 2009)

CHIANG MAI, Thailand – The large hall at Thaton Temple in Chiang Mai’s Mae Ai district has been turned into a makeshift classroom over the past few months. The mainly young students gathered here come from several different villages in Mae Ai district, but they all have one thing in common: statelessness.

Every other Sunday since last September, about 100 people have come to the temple to study laws related to civil registration and legal status – a subject they knew little about before but which is crucial to their future. Their teachers, law experts from universities and non-governmental organizations, guide them on how to apply for Thai nationality and other legal entitlements, such as permanent or temporary residence.