In 2005 North Park began a unique initiative in the mountains of Asia to see the Church planted among a specific people group.  Since we began this work, a number of different teams have travelled to the region and we now have full time people living and serving among the QST.

Due to security concerns we cannot share the full extent of this work.  A team gathers regularly to plan and to pray for this important ministry.  If you would like to learn more or to join us, contact



IJM Thailand Legal Status Documentation Program

Project summary

IJM Thailand contributes to obtaining proof of citizenship or other legal status for all eligible minority ethnic groups in Northern Thailand.  The office, initiated in 2000, originally combated Sex Trafficking and Underage Prostitution in Northern Thailand; however, IJM Thailand concluded a 90% reduction in underage prostitution throughout the region after a 2006 survey.  In light of this reduction, IJM Thailand shifted its focus to Legal Status Documentation programming to correct a long-standing structural flaw in assigning legal status to Thailand residents which had previously left hundreds of thousands of Thailand’s ethnic minorities vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The Legal Status Documentation Program assists all minority ethnic groups or ‘hill tribe people’ by educating, assisting and advocating for their right to citizenship.  IJM Thailand meets with hill tribe persons to educate them of their rights, assist the collection of supporting documentation, and guarantee applications are properly completed and submitted.  IJM Thailand also cooperates with local and national governing bodies to assist the processing of legal status applications and ensure applications are punctually approved.  Lastly, IJM Thailand manages all appeal processes and litigation ensued to assure hill tribe persons receive the legal status due them by birth.

Problem statement including context

As early as 2001, the UN Inter-Agency on Trafficking in Women and Children in the Mekong Sub-region and UNESCO “identified lack of citizenship as the major risk factor for highland girls and women in Thailand to be trafficked or, otherwise, exploited.”[1]  There are an estimated 1 million ethnic hill tribe persons residing in Northern Thailand today.  They comprise a variety of smaller, distinct ethnic groups who immigrated to the mountainous regions of Thailand 100-250 years ago.  While the majority of hill tribe people are eligible for citizenship, it is estimated between 400,000-450,000 hill tribe people have not received it.

Without citizenship hill tribe people cannot own land, travel outside their immediate locality or access subsidized health care.  The absence of these freedoms prevents their social and economic development while simultaneously exposing a vulnerability to abuse by traffickers.  Example: Hill tribe persons without citizenship are unable to travel outside their immediate district and must use smugglers to transport them to areas of available employment.  Unfortunately, these traffickers often deceivingly sell female human cargo to brothels and pimps to serve in the sex trade.  This is a particularly prevalent issue as hill tribe villages are less capable of supporting their growing communities and are increasingly driven to live outside of their traditional tribal residences.

Hill tribe persons lack citizenship for several reasons, the most significant of which is that Thailand determines citizenship through lineage rather than birthplace.  For instance, the Thai government only recognizes a newborn child as a citizen if the child’s parents are citizens as well.  If hill tribe parents do not possess citizenship, their children are ineligible regardless of their birthplace.  Unfortunately, hill tribe persons were excluded from citizenship until the late 1980’s, and subsequent hill tribe generations have been denied citizenship at birth, leaving significant portions of the population without legal status. The government has since recognized nine hill tribe groups as eligible for citizenship through special, fast-tracked processes; however, the processes remain heavily bureaucratic, slow, and difficult to navigate without an intimate knowledge of the bureaucracy.  Additionally, prejudicial views combined with immigration problems, particularly along the Myanmar (Burmese) border where most hill tribe people live, exacerbates the situation, rendering large numbers of government officials disinclined to assist hill tribe persons they generally consider illegal immigrants.

Project goal and objectives

Goal:  Contribute to obtaining proof of citizenship or other legal status for all eligible minority ethnic groups in Northern Thailand.

Objectives: 1.    Minority ethnic hill tribe persons in Northern Thailand receive highest available legal status according to applicable laws and regulations2.    Ensure structural change/sustainability of efforts to help individuals lacking citizenship rights3.    Mobilize the local Church to help individuals lacking citizenship rights

Victim Relief:  Victims receive citizenship or elevated legal status documentation.

Target groups

IJM Thailand Legal Status Documentation Program will serve all eligible hill tribe persons residing in Northern Thailand.  Primary target people groups will be those members of the nine hill tribes officially recognized by the Thai government, although, hill tribe persons from other non-recognized hill tribes will be assisted if they reside in a target areas and are eligible for elevated legal status.  The program’s primary target area has previously focused on government districts within Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces located between the city of Chiang Mai and the Myanmar (Burma) border at Mae Sai/Tachilek.  Target areas will shift as IJM Thailand re-assesses regional needs.

Project strategies and methodologies

1.       Minority ethnic hill tribe persons in Northern Thailand receive highest available legal status according to applicable laws and regulations.  IJM Thailand accomplishes this objective through assisting hill tribe persons navigate the citizenship/legal status process in its entirety:

·         Develop relationship with local government – To ensure legal status applicants receive fair consideration, IJM Thailand advocates, builds relationships, and connects hill tribe community leaders with government officers.

·         Survey needs – Through relationships with government officials, hill tribe community leaders, and non-governmental agencies, IJM Thailand determines areas most in need of assistance and focuses primary services there.

·         Educate ethnic groups – IJM Thailand empowers individual members of hill tribe communities to navigate the legal status application process themselves by educating them of their rights and application procedures.

·         Assist applicants compile necessary documentation and complete/submit application – IJM Thailand assists applicants obtain all necessary identity documentation needed to complete an application and prove legal status.

·         Follow-up on application approval progress – IJM Thailand frequently checks application progress to ensure government officials are fairly and timely processing and approving applications.

·         Manage all legal/appeal proceedings – Should an application be negligently ignored or wrongfully denied, IJM Thailand assumes power of attorney and manages all legal/appeal proceedings necessary to obtain the application’s approval.

·         Ensure applicants receive their legal status documentation – Lastly, once an application has been approved, IJM Thailand continues to follow-up with government offices to ensure they issue documentation confirming the applicants approved legal status.

·         Time frame: 4 years (2011)


2.      Ensure structural change/sustainability of efforts to help individuals lacking citizenship rights.  IJM Thailand accomplishes this objective through working alongside relevant community and government leaders to educate and engender correct, consistent practices:

·         Educating government and community leaders – IJM Thailand holds legal status seminars for government and community leaders which explain the extent of Thai legal status law and its required procedures, discuss best practices for engaging local community legal status needs, and, finally, foster relationships between government officers and community leaders, laying the groundwork for future cooperation.

·         Joint programs with relevant stake-holders – IJM Thailand assists local government offices receive, check, and process legal status applications to improve relationships between government officers and hill tribe community leaders as well as to ensure that government officers know and properly apply legal status processing guidelines.  IJM Thailand believes that these programs are engendering good habits of consistent execution of government laws and procedures.

·         Advocacy – While neither a primary objective nor programming activity, IJM frequently advises lobbyists and government leaders on needed changes in Thailand’s citizenship laws.  IJM Thailand will continue to do so until such laws are in place that hill tribe persons can obtain citizenship with as much ease as the average ethnic Thai.

·         Time frame – 4 years (2011)


3.      Mobilize the local Church to help individuals lacking citizenship rights.  IJM Thailand meets with church groups and Christian missions to increase knowledge of both IJM and the specific legal status work being done here in Thailand.

·         Time frame – 4 years (2011)

Outputs and activities

Objective 1:  Minority Ethnic Villagers in Northern Thailand Receive Highest Available Legal Status According to Applicable Laws and Regulations.

External Outputs Target
2008 2009 2010 2011
Total # of Victims Relieved 350 800 800 825

Objective 2:  Ensure Structural Change/Sustainability of Efforts to Help Individuals Lacking Citizenship Rights


External Outputs Target
2008 2009 2010 2011
# of church trainings conducted 2 3 3 4
# of community training conducted 3 4 4 5
# of village training sessions 3 4 4 5
Internal Outputs Target
2008 2009 2010 2011
# of cooperative programs established that include participating relevant stakeholders 1 1 1 1


Objective 3:  Mobilize the Local Church to Help Individuals Lacking Citizenship Rights

External Outputs Target
2008 2009 2010 2011
# of church engagements conducted 8 9 9 10


Major assumptions and risks

The Legal Status Documentation Program assumes government officials can be compelled to approve citizenship applications either through cooperative measures or litigation/appeal proceedings.  To this point, IJM-Thailand has demonstrated an ability to obtain citizenship or elevated legal status for hill tribe villagers through cooperative measures, but individual government officials have shown an unwillingness to work with IJM and apply the relevant citizenship laws.  In these instances, IJM-Thailand may be forced to engage in litigation/appeal proceedings to move local government officials to act.

The program also assumes that the Thai government will not repeal/modify existing laws governing legal status/citizenship proceedings that render it unduly difficult for hill tribe populations to receive elevated legal status/citizenship.

Legal Status Stages

Undocumented Person
Documented Person
Illegal Alien
Legal Alien


Citizen/Citizenship:  Those individuals whom by birth or naturalization the Thai government officially recognizes as a member of the country of Thailand and, therefore, are subject to the Thai government and its laws as well as beholden to all the rights of Thai citizen.

Elevated Legal Status:  Any individual who achieves a higher legal status than previously held.  For the purpose of reporting, elevated legal status refers to those individuals who achieve any legal status beneath citizen (ex1. Obtain ID Card and move from Undocumented Person to Documented Person; ex2. Obtain Permanent residency and mover from Documented Person to Legal Alien)

Legal Alien:  Those individuals whom the Thai government officially permits to reside and work within Thailand, and who are subject to Thai laws but by maintaining citizenship in another country are not beholden to all the rights of Thai citizens.

Illegal Alien:  Those individuals who travel, reside or work in Thailand without the permission of the Thai government and thereby hold none of the rights afforded Thai citizens and if caught may face deportation.

Documented Person:  Those individuals traveling, residing or working in Thailand who posses identity documentation but have not been officially recognized by the Thai government as either a citizen, legal alien or illegal alien.

Undocumented Person:  Those individuals traveling, residing or working in Thailand who do not posses any identity documentation, and for whom the Thai government has no recognized legal status.

Identity Documentation:  Any document confirming the identity of an individual.  We assist individuals obtain the following, if needed:

Birth Certificate:  Verifies the official name, birth date, place of birth and parents.

ID Card (Pink Card):  Verifies the Thai government’s official recognition of an individuals name, age and residence (what other personal information does it provide)

Household Registration:  Verifies the Thai government’s official recognition of the number, names, ages, and residence of all the individuals residing in a given household

CitizenshipPass:  Verifies receipt of Citizenship.

IJM Canada Budget for 2010 Thailand Budget Fy2010
Salaries & Employee Benefits 80,675
Services Provided by Contract 19,508
Total Travel Domestic 8,340
Training/Education 17,600
Auto 10,702
Conference Registration 358
Dues, Subscriptions & Fees 108
Gifts & Entertainment 1,910
Insurance 1,910
Interest & Fees 251
Occupancy 11,212
Office Expense 7,684
Postage & Shipping 967
Repairs and Maintenance 1,021
Telephone/Communications 3,904
Total Exp before Allocations 166,150
Security Deposit 504
Equipment 1,516
Total Assets 2,020
Total Budget 168,171   US Dollars


[1] “Searching for Identity,” Yindee Lertharoenchok; Step by Step, UN Interagency Project Newsletter: Fourth Quarter, 2001, Issue 5.