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country, find themselves politically, socially and economically marginalized. This marginalization, both through legislation and attitudes, renders these populations vulnerable to a wide range of human rights violations which are often perpetrated with impunity. 1.2 The context in Thailand’s regions

Northern Thailand is made up of nine provinces including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son which share borders with Myanmar and Laos. 78% of this region is covered by mountain ranges and industries include manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries and mining. This region is home to numerous ethnic groups of which the largest groups are the Karen, Hmong, Lisu and Lahu, in addition to the local Lanna population. These communities, known as ‘Hill Tribes’, are often distinct from the Thai population as a result of their geographical locations, their culture, language and religious beliefs. Many within these communities have only recently gained Thai citizenship and many continue to be denied citizenship. The result is that members of Hill Tribes find themselves treated unequally, regardless of their citizenship status. Hill Tribe communities are frequently excluded from the design of policies that affect their community. They are also denied access to resources including health care and education and frequently find themselves accused of crimes such as forest destruction, illegally occupying the land and drug dealing based on little more than stereotyped assumptions made by law enforcement officers. In May 2002, 1,243 villagers from Mae Ai were de-registered as citizens and forced to return their identity cards by the District Chief. The Administrative Court overturned the actions of the District Chief in 2004, however, the villagers were then forced to go through the arduous process of re-registering. Arbitrary decisions, such as this, reflect officials’ attitudes toward Hill Tribe communities and also the power the Thai state holds over the livelihoods of these people. Hill Tribe communities often live in mountainous border lands which have in the past been used for growing opium and as routes for drug smuggling. The perception within the general public is that these communities continue to be involved in drug trafficking. This is an attitude that is nurtured by official propaganda and the media. Former Human Rights Commissioner, Wasan Panich found that

Enforced Disappearances in Thailand  

Enforced Disappearances in Thailand

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