Saturday, October 13, 2012

Political truths, Thai citizenship

Our local weekly paper, the Portage County Gazette, is respected and useful.  It recently had two articles that got my attention: what you won't heard a politician say near election time and information on The Thailand Project.

George Rogers wrote that candidates for office would basically say two things if they could and were more honest:
  • "I have little control over events and little knowledge about what will happen during my term if I am elected".
  • "Despite the nasty things we are saying about him, that other guy is a good man."

I agree that both of these are true and unmentionable, at least so far.  But for my politically distraught friends, absorbing these ideas might drop the blood pressure and lighten the day.

Two art students from our local university, Univ. of Wis. - Stevens Point, took a trip to Thailand.  While there, they became interested in sex trafficking. Work to help some young women involved with trying to avoid getting caught up in that mess eventually led the two students, Joseph Quinnell and Susan Perri, to become interested in statelessness.  The two students began a project to assist one young woman who was officially stateless in Thailand to come to the US to study.  Stateless people, estimated to number 3.5 million in Thailand alone, have no rights, no legal protection and no access to education.  Srinuan Saokhamnuan received her Thai citizenship in July of this year after 7 years of struggle by the young woman and the two UWSP students, now graduates.  

People like me are sometimes said to be ignorant of the way most of the way the world works.  Asking what might be considered pesky or impertinent questions about something like "the procedure to obtain citizenship" can be a very tiring business, if not actually risky.  I recently read an account of an Englishman, married to an Iranian, who had spent much of his professional life in Iran, at various translation and diplomatic jobs.  He applied for citizenship in Iran.  Various workers and officials expressed delight with his application and assured him that it was an honor to receive such an application.  He was told to return to the office in Iran where he had submitted his application in a couple of weeks.  He did.  He was received with good humor and was offered tea and conversation but was eventually told that things had turned out that he should again return in two weeks.  That same procedure was repeated over and over, always with smiles and evident good spirits and always with nothing else.  

The story of Srinuan and Joseph and Susan was very similar, except that a new administrator was employed in the key office, a man who grasped the idea of the value to his country to getting the stateless into citizenship.  Srinuan is now a citizen and that same regional office is working on moving some 400 stateless individuals into citizenship and has intents to assist more after that.

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