Statistics shared by Thailand's Department of Provincial Administration (DoPA) processing nationality applications, show a total of 443,862 stateless persons recorded in the governmental database as of the end of October 2015.
''It's very encouraging to see that people who faced difficulties in accessing civil status documentation, formal employment or health services as a result of their undefined legal status, are now recognised as Thai nationals and enjoy unrestricted access to rights and services as full members of the Thai society,'' said Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, UNHCR's Representative in Thailand.
In Thailand's northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Tak, UNHCR supports various initiatives aimed at facilitating access to nationality, through sensitisation of communities, assistance in completing applications, follow up on pending applications and counselling, in complementary with the important work done by H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn focusing on greater access to nationality for school aged children and vulnerable persons.
In recent years UNHCR has worked with the authorities to reach out to people who face difficulties in proving their nationality and often live in remote areas.
The agency supported capacity building programs for nationality officers at district level and funded the deployment of mobile teams to remote villages.
''These figures and the commitment to the nationality application process at various levels of the national administration really show the potential for ending statelessness in Thailand,'' said Menikdiwela.
''This is also the result of years of sustained efforts by civil society actors, research groups and civil servants of the Bureau of Registration Administration.''
UNHCR welcomes the strategy implemented by the Royal Thai Government establishing procedures for assessing the possibilities of permanent residency for persons who are found not to be Thai, as well as correlated schemes providing a framework for access to health and education.
The National Strategy on Administration of Legal Status and Rights of Persons launched in 2005 offers a framework for access to nationality, but streamlining the application procedure remains key to ensuring the timely processing of nationality applications of persons entitled to Thai nationality under the national legal framework.
UNHCR is the UN agency mandated by the General Assembly to help to reduce the incidence of statelessness.
Last November it launched the Global Campaign to End Statelessness by 2024 by raising awareness on the plight of stateless persons and offering a platform to support governments in reforming nationality legislation and adjusting policies aiming at reducing statelessness.
An estimated 10 million people are stateless worldwide.