Titang - The right to a name
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
By Rajita Dang, Youth Co:Lab
For as long as he can remember, Kitipat has only wished for one thing every year on his birthday. A last name, a complete identity.
Born in a stateless community to a migrant mother, Kitipat has been denied the right to an identity for most of his young life. Despite his mother’s repeated requests for Kitipat’s identification card to be issued, she’s been stuck in Thailand’s bureaucrat loop for years.
In the documentary ‘Becoming Home’ by UNDP and Real Frame, Seanging Kamheong shares her grief with the filmmakers. She feels that she has failed her young son. Kitipat’s future prospects are bleak. Without proper identification, his ability to obtain basic services and opportunities will be severely limited. He won’t be able to access adequate health care, win scholarships for higher education, or have his application considered for a blue-collar job. Informal labour will be his only option for livelihood. Kitipat won’t even be able to move to another province to look for better work without fear of arrest.
There are thousands of stateless children like Kitipat in Thailand that have never dared to dream because they feel like their fate is already sealed.
‘Titang’ is an organization created by three former stateless youth - Suchart Ingtha, Pathiparn Nalong, and Tee Nayord. They are on a mission to ensure equality for everyone under the law. The founders are aware of the socio-political challenges stateless communities in Thailand face and are using media as a tool to help these communities navigate the path to citizenship.
Project Titang was the first runner-up of the Youth Co:Lab Thailand 2019 Challenge which was organized under the theme of embracing differences and respecting diversity.
“The Youth Co: Lab Thailand programme provided many useful tools to be used in our operations. The programme helps us to see the clearer direction of our work and connect us with a network of people from various places, working on different social issues. It helped amplify the stories of stateless people to be heard more in society,” said Co-founder Suchart Ingtha.
The runner-up grant helped Titang sustain its business operations, but to expand the organization’s reach even further, UNDP Thailand provided the organization with professional storytelling training. Through a series of UNDP-led communications workshops and activities which were organized by the Thai photography group, Real Frame, Titang was given the tools to think more strategically about how to dispel harmful narratives, become more effective in online campaigning, and design engaging online content that could promote understanding about stateless people.
It is through the continuation of these efforts that the platform You Me We Us was launched and the documentary, Becoming Home, was released on the International Day of Indigenous Peoples in Aug 2021.
Project Titang is now using social media to educate the general public, help ethnic minority community members apply for citizenship, and help stateless people access public services. To date, the organization has been able to provide citizenship consulting services to over 1400 people. It is currently working on 63 citizenship cases and has successfully helped three people obtain Thai nationality.
Helping stateless communities navigate the legal system is no easy task. According to UNHCR, there are currently around 430,000 people in Thailand registered as stateless. The legal cases can be incredibly complex because the stateless community is not homogenous. Many stateless people and those at risk of statelessness come from areas where national borders have changed, leaving their nationality in question. Some stateless people belong to indigenous "hill tribes'' and ethnic minority groups living in remote areas with limited access to information about citizenship procedures.
With climate change threatening their traditional way of life, young people in these remote parts of Thailand have been forced to look for employment in major cities. Linguistically diverse, they’ve found it difficult to successfully maneuver the administrative system which operates in the country’s only official language - Thai.
Project Titang believes that the more noise they make, the more people will come to understand their mission to bridge the legal citizenship processes gap. To ensure that Thai-born children like Kitipat will have the right to a last name, the right to citizenship privileges, and the right to dream of greater opportunities.
Co-created in 2017 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation, Youth Co:Lab aims to establish a common agenda for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to empower and invest in youth so that they can accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Read more about Youth Co:Lab here.