Thai soccer team's stateless boys granted citizenship

Thai soccer team's stateless boys granted citizenship

The 12-member "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach rescued from a flooded cave pose with a drawing picture of Samarn Kunan, a former Thai navy diver who died working to rescue them at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Nopparat Kanthawong, the head coach of the Wild Boars team, said the four received official Thai ID cards along with another teammate who had not been in the cave but also applied for citizenship.

Thailand on Wednesday, August 8, granted citizenship to stateless members of the football team rescued from a cave last month in a saga which gripped the world. In neighboring Myanmar, the frontier regions are dominated by ethnic minority groups, but underdevelopment and conflict make opportunities scarce.

The party was strolling inside the cave, following which they were trapped for nine days, before being found.

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

"Today all of you get Thai citizenship", Mae Sai district chief Somsak Khanakham said in a ceremony on Wednesday at a local office, as they were handed national ID cards.

Mae Sai district chief Somsak Kanakham said they were granted citizenship according to the laws.

Citizenship requests for some twenty other people, a lot of them children, were also approved, Somsak added.

"There are many people who are born in Thailand but haven't received citizenship yet", he said, adding that residents seeking Thai nationality should apply quickly, while he still holds his job, because he has "no corrupt intentions".

Thailand is home to around 480,000 stateless people, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

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. Of that number 146,269 are younger than 18 years old.

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