107-year old Karen spiritual leader granted Thai citizenship

Spiritual leader of ethnic Karens of Kaeng Krachan forest in Phetchaburi, 107-year old Ko-ee Meeme, registered for a Thai identity card at Kaeng Krachang district office on Tuesday after he was granted Thai citizenship.

On hand to witness the ID card registration process were Mrs Tuenjai Deethet, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, and children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Ko-ee Meeme, affectionately known as Grandfather Ko-ee.

Mrs Tuenjai told the media that the old man was born on Thai soil at the border between Phetchaburi and Ratchaburi provinces which has been the ancestral of the Karen ethnic people and, for that matter, he was entitled to Thai citizenship.

She noted that the case of Grandfather Ko-ee represented a good example of cooperation of several relevant agencies to resolve the problem of nationality, especially for many elderly ethnic minority people in Thailand who are still regarded as stateless.

The human rights commissioner said that there are many stateless people who have been living in Thailand for several decades but were not granted Thai citizenship because they lack necessary official documents such as birth certificates which would prove that they were born in the country.

Because of their status as stateless persons, she said they were not entitled to state welfare and to travel freely and deprived of job opportunities.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)