'Stateless' Thai cave boys and coach granted citizenship

'Stateless' Thai cave boys and coach granted citizenship

The 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, from the "Wild Boars" soccer team were catapulted into the global spotlight after they became trapped inside the Tham Luang Cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

Three of the schoolboys and their coach rescued from a flooded cave have been granted Thai citizenship.

Adul Sam-on, Mongkol Boonpiam, Pornchai Kamluang and Ekkapol Chantawong officially became Thai citizens when they, along with 26 other people, took part in a ceremony held at Mae Sai district office yesterday afternoon to present them with Thai ID cards.

The four had been stateless and their lack of citizenship blocked access to some basic benefits and rights, such as the ability to travel outside of Chiang Rai, the northern province where they live.

FILE PHOTO: Rescue workers at the Tham Luang cave complex in Thailand on, July 10, 2018, the day 12 boys were rescued after nine days trapped in the caves.

During the worldwide rescue mission, it was reported that the four were among the over 4.8 lakh stateless people in Thailand, majority living in remote border areas.

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"I'm happy", he said.

The boys given citizenship Wednesday in their home district of Mae Sai had all applied for it before the cave incident, and all had the required documentation for the change in status, said Somsak. "I want to say that football can elevate the lives of kids whose families may not be in the best position".

Somsak Kanakam, the district chief, said he approved the boys' applications after their authentication passed regulations, while the coach could prove that he and at least one of his parents were born in Thailand.

More than 486,000 people are registered as stateless, according to official data.

The Observatory said stateless people in Thailand are unable to vote, buy land, seek legal employment, work in certain occupations or travel freely. Chiang Rai, the region where the group was trapped in the cave, is near the country's border with Laos and Myanmar.

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