Integrity Legal

22nd September 2009

The plight of many Burmese (Myanmar Nationals) living in Thailand is a sad one as many are not in any type of legal status or are simply refugees who cannot return to their home country. In a recent article, their situation was brought into sharp focus by the Thai media…and it was all due to a paper airplane. To quote the Canadian Press:

“A boy with no official nationality who lives in Thailand captured third place in a Japanese paper airplane contest Sunday after his tearful pleas to be allowed to attend prompted authorities to grant him a rare temporary passport for the event.”

It is truly inspirational when Thai people become upset due to a social injustice, because things tend to get done. Temporary passports have never been easily obtainable for people of any nationality living in Thailand, but in the case of those originally from Myanmar a request for an official travel document from the Thai government is often dismissed out of hand. The above article went further in discussing this particular situation:

“Mong’s ethnic Shan parents have only temporary permission to live and work in Thailand, so although he was born in the country he has only temporary resident status. Under normal circumstances, if he left and tried to return, his status would be revoked and he would be barred re-entry to the country where he was born.When his initial application for temporary exit papers was denied, the story dominated the front pages of Thai newspapers, and a national lawyers’ council petitioned the court on his behalf.”

Kudos to the Thai National Lawyers Council for taking up the cause of this young man. Asylees and refugees tend to have the most trouble obtaining legal documentation, particularly for travel. This article highlighted this fact and hopefully the plight of the Burmese in Thailand will be in the future thoughts of those in government positions.

It is interesting to note that this child’s family had not obtained Thai Permanent Residence. If that had been the case they may have been eligible for a Reentry Permit. Many Burmese from the Shan States of Myanmar live and work in Thailand illegally. There are certain parallels between these migrant workers and the undocumented Mexicans who enter the United States in order to work and live. Many of these people come from difficult environments in their home countries and they seek economic opportunities in Thailand or America. Although it is certainly a legal necessity to obtain proper documentation, the fact is that many people in dire circumstances do not have the time or the resources to go through the proper channels. A little bit of “give” on the part of the government can be beneficial in extenuating circumstances.


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