BANGKOK, Aug. 10 (CGTN) -- Thailand on Wednesday granted citizenship to three stateless young football players and their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, who were rescued along with nine other teammates from a flooded cave last month. Another stateless member of the Wild Boars football team, who had not been in the cave, was also given citizenship.
The decision has brought in focus the condition of Thailand’s hundreds of thousands of stateless people who struggle for minimum benefits and basic rights, even though the government has pledged to attain zero statelessness by 2024
For instance, Ekapol and the young boys who received their official Thai ID cards on Wednesday were earlier not allowed to travel outside Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai, where they live and which is home to thousands of ethnic minorities with roots in neighboring Myanmar, who still face such curbs.
Ekapol and 12 "Wild Boars" survived a nine-day ordeal trapped inside a flooded cave and were saved after a massive and dramatic international rescue mission last month.
The coach and three players were considered stateless despite being born in Thailand, until local authorities verified their documents and qualifications, including birth certificates, and conferred them with citizenship.
Armed with Thai ID cards now, the new citizens will be able to travel with other Wild Boars team members beyond the borders of their own province.