Thai cave rescue boys granted citizenship

Thai cave rescue boys granted citizenship

Twelve "Wild Boars" soccer players and their coach play soccer as they arrive for their news conference in Chiang Rai, Thailand July 18, 2018.

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.

The UN refugee agency welcomed on Thursday a decision by Thailand to grant Thai citizenship to three boys and their soccer coach from among a group of 13 who were rescued from a flooded cave last month.

They were found by two British divers nine days later, but it took another six days to rescue the first team members. An global effort to rescue them ended on July 10 when they all were brought out safely.

During the global rescue mission, it was reported that the four were among the over 4.8 lakh stateless people in Thailand, a lot of them living in remote border areas.

Coach Ekapol Chantawong, who was widely praised for keeping the boys safe after rain flooded the cave system, was rescued on the 18th day, along with the final three boys.


"They have all the qualifications", Somsak Kanakam, chief officer of Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai, told Reuters.

In a ceremony in Chiang Rai province Wednesday, the Mae Sai district chief approved citizenship for Ardoon Sam-aon, Mongkol Boompiam, Ponchai Khamluang, and assistant coach Ekkapol Ake Chanthawong.

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.

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

"By providing these boys and their coach with citizenship, Thailand has given them the chance to both dream of a brighter future and to reach their full potential", Carol Batchelor, UNHCR's Special Advisor on Statelessness, said in a statement. Of that number 146,269 are younger than 18 years old.

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