Health office seeks B1bn for stateless, Bangkok Post

Minorities, migrants likely to get coverage

The National Health Security Office is seeking cabinet approval for a billion-baht budget to finance healthcare services for more than 500,000 stateless people.

The healthcare budget will cover ethnic minorities, long-term migrants and those born in the country but still waiting for verification of their citizenship, said Pongsadhorn Pokpermdee, an expert at the NHSO overseeing the universal healthcare scheme.

The budget proposal, based on the allocation of 2,401.33 baht a head for patients listed under the universal healthcare scheme, would guarantee the basic right of access to medical treatment for stateless people.

It is likely to be tabled before the cabinet next month, he said.

“Rights of access by stateless people and ethnic minorities to medical care has become a chronic issue reflecting structural problems and basic human rights,” Pantip Kanchanajittra Saisunthorn, of Thammasat University’s faculty of law, told a seminar yesterday held by the Thai Journalists Association.

Ms Pantip said their right to health treatment was being unfairly denied, mainly because they were not Thai.

Agencies, such as the National Security Council, the Interior, Public Health and Social Development and Human Security ministries, the NHSO and Social Security Office, should put the issue of health security above other legal issues when dealing with stateless people, she said.

Visanu Booncha, 15, was denied medical treatment by the public health system in his hour of need.

Born in Ratchaburi, the stateless teenager was denied an emergency appendix operation at a state hospital two years ago because his family was classified as part of an “illegal population”.

He had to seek care at a private clinic instead.

His mother, Banjara, said the family comes from the Mon ethnic group who fled fighting in Burma several decades ago. Members of her family, including Visanu, who was born on Thai soil, had never obtained Thai citizenship.

Buranat Samuttarak, Democrat Party spokesman, said he would talk to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva about improving access to services by stateless people.

The Abhisit government has agreed in principle to guarantee health care to people awaiting word on their citizenship, taking effect from fiscal year 2009 onwards.

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