Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

UN refugee agency welcomes Thai move to give cave boys citizenship

UN refugee agency welcomes Thai move to give cave boys citizenship

Wild Boars' soccer coach Ekkapol Chanthawong (left), who is now in the monkhood, receives his identity card denoting Thai citizenship from district chief Somsak Kunkamin during the ceremony in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai, on Wednesday.

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.

The boys and coach were among 13 people who were trapped in the cave for several weeks, surviving by drinking water that dripped from the walls of the cave, until they were found by scuba divers after a round-the-clock worldwide rescue effort. Chiang Rai, the region where the group was trapped in the cave, is near the country's border with Laos and Myanmar.

The party was strolling inside the cave, following which they were trapped for nine days, before being found. An worldwide effort to rescue them ended on July 10 when they all were brought out safely.

Local authorities approved their applications after checking their qualifications, including birth certificates.

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A top official of Mae Sai district administration in Chiang Rai said that Coach Ekkapol Chantawong, 25; Adul Sam-on, 14; Mongkol Boonpeam, 13; and Pornchai Kamluang, 16; were among 30 stateless people who received Thai national ID cards today.

The three boys obtained their birth certificates and used them as evidence to prove they were eligible to receive the Thai nationality, said Mr Somsak. The government also approved citizenship requests of around 20 other people, he said. 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 boys were stateless, despite having been born in Thailand and their lack of citizenship deprived them of some basic benefits and rights, including the ability to travel outside of Chiang Rai, the northern province where they live.

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

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