Mobile maritime peoples have lived itinerant lifestyles across Southeast Asia for centuries. In times where non-state spaces are diminishing and individual rights depend increasingly on a recognised legal identity, their livelihoods and traditions are affected by state practices surrounding citizenship. Drawing on fieldwork in southern Thailand, this paper explores how the lives of the Moken have been affected by the way state-based legal identity and citizenship regimes are enacted. In doing so, this article presents views held by Moken communities about their life and the challenges they face in accessing Thai citizenship despite legal reforms in the recent years. More than other populations, mobile peoples allow us to see the ‘problem of citizenship’ and the effects arising from its practice in different localities. Our research highlights the importance of considering the agency and choices of (formerly) mobile peoples in the implementation of state-based citizenship and legal identity regimes.
Janepicha Cheva-Isarakul and Christoph Sperfeldt, “Citizenship and statelessness among mobile maritime populations: the case of the Moken in Thailand“, Citizenship Studies, 2023.