Thailand’s Lost Tribes: The Natives Who Are Not Citizens

on August 23 2011 1:40 PM

Thailand is home to thousands of people who were born there, but are not recognized as citizens due to a lack of documentation.

In the northern hills of Chiang Rai alone, there are at least seven major ethnic groups and some 50,000 people that are not considered Thai citizens. Without citizenship, they cannot technically own land or vote and are often excluded from state-funded health care.

The population of the hill tribes in Thailand is estimated at 1.2 million. Rights groups like Plan International say that of those, an estimated 500,000 ethnic minorities in Thailand are in the same situation.

While many of the tribes in northern Thailand migrated over in the past 200 years from war-torn Burma, Laos, Tibet and China, many more have lived for generations in the lush hills of Thailand's highlands. Each hill tribe has its own language, customs, way of dressing and beliefs, and most are of semi-nomadic origin.

Human rights violations, lack of education options and discrimination on several levels are each large factors that have lead the tribes to live in poverty.

Restricted freedom of movement is another major issue the tribes face. While movement of non-citizens within certain areas is allowed, if tribesmen are found outside of these areas, they face instant arrest.

Perhaps the greatest issue the tribes face is that of their perception. Rather than being embraced as part of Thailand's diverse ethnic makeup, the tribes are more often associated with deforestation, illicit drug production, drug trafficking, and even communist activity. While some of these claims are true, more often than not, they are part of a negative, desensitizing campaign by the Thai government.

Have a look at Thailand's Lost Tribes below and learn more at:

http://www.thaifreedomhouse.org/

http://plan-international.org/

http://www.un.org/democracyfund/XNewsIndigenousPPLThailand.htm

 

Lost Tribes Thialand (1 of 11)

Ethnic Akha children watch male stag beetles fight at Mae Fahluang District, Chiang Rai province, in northern Thailand, 825 km (513 miles) from Bangkok, August 20, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 20, 2011. REUTERS

Lost Tribes Thialand (2 of 11)

Middle hill tribesmen work at the Mae Salong Flower Hills Resort in the Mae Salongnok District, Chiang Rai Province, in Thailand August 19, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 19, 2011. REUTERS

Lost Tribes Thialand (3 of 11)

9-year old Sunisa, an ethnic "archa", carries her sister in the Mae Fahluang District, Chiang Rai Province, in the northern part of Thailand, 850 km (513 miles) from Bangkok, August 19, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 19, 2011. REUTERS

Lost Tribes Thialand (5 of 11)

Ethnic "Lahoo" children play with motorcycle tires in Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai Province, northern part of Thailand, 825km (513 miles) from Bangkok, August 18, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 18, 2011. REUTERS

Lost Tribes Thialand (6 of 11)

22-year-old Meeloo, an ethnic "Archa" woman carries one-year-old Natcha, while collecting tea leaves at Mae Fahluang District, Chiang Rai Province in northern Thailand, August 19, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 19, 2011. REUTERS

Lost Tribes Thialand (7 of 11)

70-year-old ethnic "Lahu" woman, Asami, smiles in Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai province, 825 km (513 miles) north of Bangkok August 20, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 20, 2011. REUTERS

Lost Tribes Thialand (9 of 11)

An ethnic "Lahu" man collects empty bottles in front of his house in Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai province, 825 km (513 miles) north of Bangkok August 20, 2011. There are at least 7 major ethnic minority groups and some 50,000 people that have not received Thai citizenship, living in Chiang Rai, according to Plan International in Thailand. Picture taken August 20, 2011. REUTERS

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