More than half a million ethnic minorities given free public healthcare

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has included more than half a million more people in the free public healthcare system as of October 2015.

According to Post Today News, Surapong Kongchantuk, Chair of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's Human Rights Subcommittee on Ethnic Minorities, the Stateless, Migrant Workers and the Displaced, revealed on Thursday, 1 October 2015, that 626,027 more people will now be able to enjoy the same free public healthcare that all Thai citizens are entitled to.

More than half a million people are members of various ethnic minorities mostly living along the Thai-Myanmar border, who were recently granted Thai citizenship by the Interior Ministry. Prior to this, they were not entitled to public services such as the universal healthcare scheme or public schooling.

The ethnic minority population recently granted Thai citizenship can be divided into two groups. The first group of 465,992 were given citizenship in accordance the Cabinet Resolution of 23 March 2010 while the cabinet under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, gave Thai citizenship to an additional 160,035 on 20 April 2015.

The government has allocated about 1.3 billion baht (35.5 million USD) to the public health budget for the 2016 fiscal year for the additional population. On average, each will receive about 2043 baht or about 55 USD for health treatment.  

Although it is considered as a significant move in the right direction, Surapong mentioned that there might still be a lot of people in the country who are excluded from basic public services.

The Chair of the Lawyers Council of Thailand's Human Rights Subcommittee on Ethnic Minorities and the Stateless said that there are currently about 70,000 students who have not been given national identification cards and are not entitled to universal public healthcare.

For the time being, people without Thai citizenship, especially stateless children of migrant workers in Thailand, have to spend 365 baht (about 10 USD) annually to purchase public health insurance at public hospitals.   

Recently in August 2015, the Ministry of Education announced a policy to give per capita financial support to children who are studying in private schools. However, children without Thai citizenship will not be included in the scheme.

According to the Migrant Working Group (MWG), a civil society organisation for migrant workers in Thailand, because of this policy, many private charity schools which have been providing education for underprivileged children without Thai citizenship will be short of support from the Thai state and many children will no longer be able to study.

Surapong criticised the new policy of the Education Ministry saying that to withdraw financial support for children without national identification cards is in fact against a 2005 Cabinet Resolution.

He urged the Thai authorities to revoke the current policy and restore the previous one of continuing support for non-Thai children to go to school.

According to the Ramajitti Institute, a Thai non-profit organization which conducts research on children, youth and education, Thailand is home to about 250,000-300,000 undocumented migrant and stateless children, many of whom are excluded from formal primary schooling.

 

See related news:

Thai Education Ministry withdraws funding for non-Thai children