Follow Us:

Highland Citizenship and Birth Registration Project

The Culture Unit of UNESCO has identified "lack of citizenship" as the major risk factor for highland girls and women in Thailand to be trafficked or, otherwise, exploited. Consequently, UNESCO has taken a keen interest in registering ethnic minorities for Thai citizenship.

Without legal status, ethnic minority people are considered “illegal aliens” and subject to arrest, deportation, extortion and other forms of abuse and denied the following basic human rights:

- The right to vote.
- The right to land ownership.
- The right to travel beyond their home districts or provinces. (Limits job opportunities)
- The right to obtain a certificate after finishing school. (Limits job and schooling opportunities)
- The right to access state welfare services such as medical care and treatment.

In response to these findings, UNESCO has undertaken a project to train and support NGOs to assist hill tribespeople in meeting the Thai requirements for registration and citizenship. UNESCO cooperates with the UN Inter-Agency Project on Trafficking of Women and Children (UNIAP) and with a wide variety of Thai and hill tribe NGOs, universities, and Thai Government agencies.

Project Resources

Birth Registration and Citizenship Manual

Now availible for download in English and Thai. Read more.

'Citizenship and Birth Registration in the Thai Highlands'

This brochure details the Project's approaches and methodology. Read the brochure here online or print it out for future reference: Front Page and Back Page.

Note: Brochure prints best on A3 (11x17) paper.


In an effort to convey the importance of registering children at birth, UNESCO has developed and published cartoons based off of their successful radio spots campaign. Produced in 7 minority languages, Lisu, Akha, Mien, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, and Tai Yai, the cartoon has also been translated into the northern Thai dialect. Read more.


In order to reinforce the message provided in the radio spots and strengthen their impact, UNESCO produced three posters summarizing key information on birth registration. Check out the Poster page here.

Documentary: A Right to Belong

A UNESCO documentary, "A Right to Belong" explores the issue of citizenship for highland people in their own words – how it shapes their lives and their hopes for the future. To read more about ordering information and to watch a portion of the film, visit the subproject page here.

'Searching for Identity'

In her article “Searching for Identity”, Yindee Lertcharoenchok, Consultant for UNESCO Culture Unit, reports on UNESCO & UNIAP efforts to help bring citizenship to highland villagers.

Factsheets on Citizenship as a Human Right

States have the international legal obligation to register children after birth and provide them with a nationality. Which international human rights conventions provide the basis for this assumption? To find the answer to this question, access the following fact sheets on 'the right to birth registration and a nationality'.