‘Stateless’ Thai cave boys and coach granted citizenship

Elias Hubbard
August 10, 2018

This handout photo released by the Ministry of Health, Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital on July 15, 2018 and taken on July 14 shows members of the rescued "Wild Boars" football team at hospital in Chiang Rai.

Thailand on Wednesday granted citizenship to three young soccer players and their coach, who were rescued last month along with other team mates after spending three weeks in a flooded cave.

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

Ekapol and 12 boys had gone to explore the Tham Luang caves in Chiang Rai province on June 23, when a rainy-season downpour flooded the cave system and trapped them underground.

A dramatic, global rescue effort ended on July 10 when they were all brought out safely after an ordeal lasting more than two weeks.

The footballers and the coach were among the 13 people who were trapped in the cave for nine days until their dramatic rescue.

The boys given citizenship today in their home district of Mae Sai had all applied for it before the cave incident, and all were fully qualified for the change in status, said district chief Somsak Kanakam.

"There are many people who are born in Thailand but haven't received citizenship yet", he said.

Citizenship requests for some twenty other people, majority children, were also approved, Somsak added. Some belong to "hill tribes" living in remote areas with limited access to information about nationality procedures, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The rescue highlighted the plight of Thailand's "stateless" people, who are often denied rights and opportunities because they are not citizens.

Mr Chantawong and three of the youngsters - who were all reportedly born in Thailand - were handed their citizenship cards in a ceremony on Wednesday.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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