Fri, Aug 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Stateless youths rescued from cave get Thai citizenship

AP, BANGKOK

Three young soccer players and their coach who were rescued with other teammates after almost three weeks in a flooded cave were on Wednesday granted Thai citizenship.

All four had been stateless, and their lack of citizenship deprived them of some basic benefits and rights, including the ability to travel outside of Chiang Rai, the province where they live.

Nopparat Kanthawong, 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.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I want to say that football can elevate the lives of kids whose families may not be in the best position.”

“If they have Thai citizenship, in the future, if they don’t want to play football they can take exams to become public officials or find good work that is related to their field of studies,” he said.

Nopparat said he on Wednesday submitted documentation to help apply for citizenship for seven other Wild Boar players who are stateless.

The boys given citizenship 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, district chief Somsak Kanakam said.

“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.”

He said that most people at the ceremony were aware of under-the-table payments that some officials had asked for in the past.

There are 488,105 stateless people registered in Thailand, government statistics showed. The actual number could be as high as 3.5 million, according to the International Observatory on Statelessness.

Stateless people in Thailand are unable to vote, buy land, seek legal employment, work in certain occupations or travel freely, the organization said.

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