Desperate stateless teen finally gets Thai ID card, chance to compete in Genius Olympiad in US

Yonladee Phiyatat was born stateless in Thailand to foreign migrant parents.
Yonladee Phiyatat was born stateless in Thailand to foreign migrant parents.PHOTO: YONLADEE PHIYATAT/INSTAGRAM

BANGKOK – A 17-year-old stateless teen’s plea for help to obtain Thai citizenship in order to fly to the United States to compete in the Genius Olympiad has finally been granted.

Yonladee Phiyatat, who was born stateless in Thailand to migrant parents, received her ID card on Friday (May 10), a document that lets her to apply for a passport and US visa.

Public sympathy poured in when the high school student from Satree Ranong School in southern Thailand’s Ranong province lamented on Facebook that the lack of travel documents meant she was missing out on the chance to take part in the contest after getting an invitation, The Nation newspaper reported.

“I am stateless and according to law cannot travel out of Thailand,” Yonladee, nicknamed Ploy, wrote last week.

Yonladee  won a competition to take part in the Genius Olympiad in New York next month, but had to miss the May 1 application deadline because she was stateless.

Her story caught the attention of the media and Thai authorities.

Shortly after seeing her Facebook post, the Office of Basic Education Commission promised to coordinate with the Interior Ministry. A Thai university lecturer offered to pay for her trip and be her guarantor for the US visa.


The Interior Ministry fast-tracked her case this week and on Friday, a beaming Yonladee received her Thai ID card at the Muang Ranong District Office accompanied by her parents and a teacher.

Ranong governor Chatupoj Piyumputra and Muang Ranong district chief Boonchai Somjai showed up to facilitate Yonladee’s case.

Genius Olympiad is an international high school competition about environmental issues founded by the non-profit Terra Science and Education and hosted by the State University of New York.

The competition from June 17 to 22 will attract about 1,400 participants from around the world.