Hidden in Plain Sight: Community-based Research on Undocumented Children Living along the Thai-Myanmar Border

By Amanda Mowry, Therese Caouette, Treasure Shine

 Dual non-citizenship occurs when a person is not able to prove citizenship in their country of origin or the country they are currently residing. All across the world, it is the duty of acting governments to ensure access to basic human rights for its citizens. When a person is undocumented, they do not have a governing body to guarantee rights such as health care, education, and freedom to travel and are at high risk for exploitation. 

Objectives: The aim of this research is to understand the vulnerability to and possible risks for children who are dual non-citizens along the Thai-Myanmar border and identify the barriers to and opportunities for citizenship. In order to achieve the studys aim, the Research Team will attempt to realize the following objectives: 1) To understand the extent undocumented children along the Thai-Myanmar border. 2) To develop recommendations for pilot projects to reduce dual non-citizenship along the Thai- Myanmar border. 3) To present the voices of mobile populations and their concerns of dual non-citizenship to a national and international level.

Methods: The study population includes children and families of mobile populations along the Thai-Myanmar border with no documentation of citizenship; participants will be selected through snowball sampling. Using Participatory Action Research, community-based organizations will conduct semi-structured interviews with dual non-citizens and findings will be supported with documentary review. In the Pilot Phase, qualitative research was conducted in Kanchanaburi Province and the Bangkok Metropolitan Region with a sample size of 20 households. In Phase 2, site selection will be expanded to Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son Province with a total anticipated sample size of 80 households.

Discussion: In considering causes for dual non-citizenship amongst research participants in the Pilot Phase, two major factors were prominent: people were unaware of how to apply for documentation or their documents were lost or missing. These causes for dual non-citizenship, and their impact on wellbeing and access to basic human rights will be further analyzed in the next phase of research.