Niran joined our scholarship program in at the age of 17. Niran is a member of the Akha ethnic minority group and is stateless, meaning he does not have Thai citizenship and endures “serious restrictions on [his] basic rights”. For most people in the world citizenship to at least one country is a birthright. Without any kind of citizenship at all, Niran lacks access to certain jobs, cannot travel freely, or access the universal healthcare available to Thai citizens. As a member of a minority group, he faces the other challenge of discrimination and a lower social standing.
But Niran is an extremely gifted runner. He’s been running marathons competitively for years. He ran so well that he was able to represent Chiang Rai province at a national competition for Thailand, and won. The next step was the international competition in Malaysia. Niran was so excited to have the opportunity to compete at the international level and to follow his passion and his dream. However, because he is stateless, he was not able to attend the competition because he could not travel or leave the country, as he has no citizenship with which to claim a passport.
WHY THIS IS SUCH A CHALLENGE
Niran has had many people try to help him gain citizenship. But because Niran’s parents died when he was a baby, he doesn’t have any documents about them, making his citizenship case even more difficult. With no documents or information about their legal status, Niran could not even begin the process to claim his own legal status.
Niran continued running because he loved it. Even if he couldn’t represent Thailand, he could represent his university in competitions. Over time, Niran began to feel discouraged about his lack of citizenship. He thought studying was pointless because, without citizenship, he would have limited formal job opportunities. Having a university degree, in his opinion, wouldn’t open up any more opportunities, since he was so limited by his statelessness. Since he felt that further education wouldn’t help him until he was able to obtain citizenship, Niran dropped out of university.
HOW SUPPORT HELPED HIM PERSEVERE
The Freedom Story’s staff met with Niran to talk about his education and his legal status case. They shared about the importance of education, how it opens up opportunities and futures that may be unexpected. And, after checking Niran’s documents, they found a new Thai law would entitle him to citizenship if he was able to finish a bachelor’s degree. Niran also hopes that his outstanding athletic ability will help him gain Thai citizenship as well.
Niran is currently working as a security guard and staff in a rental car shop while he waits to register for his new university in the fall. The Freedom Story will continue to support his education and to get him on the path towards his legal status. After graduating and receiving his citizenship, he hopes to make his dream of representing Thailand in marathon running come true. We stand with Niran as he continues to run towards his dreams.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
If you want to help vulnerable people like Niran, all you have to do is invest in our prevention programs–a powerful tool for you to help Niran and his peers with the best chance they have to protect themselves from exploitation. Donate through One Day’s Wages and help us reach our goal of $50,000, which goes straight to helping people like Niran live a life free from trafficking and exploitation!