Bongkot Napaumporn

  • Bongkot Napaumporn

    PhD candidate

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Bongkot Napaumporn is a PhD researcher at the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness. Prior to joining the Centre, she worked on statelessness for UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok and was an advocate at the Thammasat University’s legal clinic that worked closely with civil societies and communities of stateless and displaced persons in Thailand. She was involved in key law and policy reforms of Thailand which aimed at improving stateless people’s legal status and access to human rights and promoting their well-being and inclusion in the society. These laws and policies include, for example, the amended Nationality and Civil Registration Acts in 2008, and proposal for a Cabinet Decision in 2015 to provide health insurance to stateless persons.

Since 2006 her work has been dedicated to the prevention and reduction of statelessness and the protection of stateless persons who mostly are in protracted situations in South-East Asia. Bongkot has a keen interest in statelessness in a migratory context due to her self- evident experiences through legal advocacy provided to stateless migrants. Her current research focuses on human agency of stateless migrants from Thailand in Japan and analyses how their situations have a direct and indirect impact on state policies and relations relating to addressing statelessness.

Thesis Title

Negotiating identities and inclusion: The case of stateless persons from Thailand in Japan

Thesis Summary

Statelessness is a violation of the human right to a nationality and to human dignity. It causes barriers to access other rights such as legal employment, healthcare, social services, and makes stateless persons vulnerable to exploitation. Additional impacts on the protection needs of stateless persons arise significantly when they migrate. Also, they usually struggle with establishing their identity and finding their own place in the world, partly due to links to more than one country on the basis of birth, descent, marriage or habitual residence. In most cases, they end up being excluded from membership of all the countries where they have relevant links. In the case of Japan, it is evident that some of stateless persons are attempting to negotiate their own identity and inclusion, both social and legal, with the state in ways that increase the probability of their integration into the society regardless of their vulnerable position.

Japan is often cited as a country that has sustained its ethnic and cultural homogeneity and strict controls on population quality and immigration. However, according to the historical accounts of both Japanese and foreign scholars who have studied Japan’s population management, evidence shows that Japan does not always preserves its ideology of ethnocultural identity. During the Meiji era, Japan was a multiethnic empire accepting different ethnic groups, and since the late 1970s it has begun to welcome immigrants including refugees. In order to understand this complex development of Japanese identity and its notion of membership, the study will start with exploring the history of population management in Japan including the development of the concept of Japanese nationality, the role of family registration, and immigration policy. This will contribute to understanding administration of membership in present-day Japan and the problems faced by unregistered and statelessness people, including stateless migrants from Thailand, in Japan.

Based on available information and accessibility, the study focuses on two groups of stateless migrants from Thailand in Japan including post World War Two Vietnamese refugees and trafficked hilltribe women. Using empirical evidence, the study will secondly examine the situation of stateless persons from Thailand in Japan. The study will observe and analyse how these stateless migrants display ‘human agency’ to negotiate their own identity and inclusion in Japan; it will also examine Japanese legal, policy and institutional responses to the situation of these stateless persons from Thailand.

Lastly, the study will contribute to the debate on the categorisation of stateless persons as de jure and de facto stateless as well as the debate between statelessness in situ and statelessness in the migratory context. The study will challenge the limits of the legal definition of de jure statelessness as applied to long-term migrants in the Japanese context. Based on real-life experiences of these case studies, the study thus aims to understand the meaning and analyse the effectiveness of de jure and de facto concepts of statelessness in the context of Japan.


  • Statelessness and nationality
  • Forced migration
  • Legal identity
  • Human agency of stateless persons