Thai cave rescue: Coach and boys given citizenship: It emerged during their weeks-long ordeal that three of the boys and their coach were stateless. pic.twitter.com/uaPcmPMYRb— Toufaani (@Toufaani) August 8, 2018
Coach Ekapol Chantawong and three boys from the Wild Boars soccer team, who became widely famous after being rescued from a flooded cave, were just granted citizenship in Thailand.
As it turns out, they were part of a group of minority tribes that are considered stateless, even though they were born and raised in Thailand.
While the world waited for the team’s safe rescue, it was reported that the boys and coach were just a few of the 480,000 individuals who are part of several stateless minority groups who are not considered Thai citizens. In no time, Thai officials were being pressured to work on their citizenship applications and put them ahead of others following the ordeal they suffered.
During the official ceremony, the Mae Sai district chief officer, Somsak Kanakam, said the four individuals met “all the qualifications” to receive their citizenship. He added later that the cave incident had nothing to do with the government's decision to grant them their documents.
Despite having been born in Thailand, the coach and boys are part of the country’s stateless and nomadic hill tribes living around the border. Many of these people are also part of other ethnic groups considered foreigners in their own land in the neighboring Myanmar, Laos, and China.
Stateless #WildBoars boys rescued from #ThaiCave, get citizenship! https://t.co/ckNN1SEeQv Great news, now the Thai government needs to start working on a solution for all other stateless people born/living in Thailand. pic.twitter.com/dMd0mmuy2c— Statelessness Europe (@ENStatelessness) August 8, 2018
Before this happy moment, Chantawong, who’s a member of the Tai Lue minority, was said to be longing for citizenship. Now that his plight has finally come to an end, this heartening story may help to raise awareness about statelessness in Thailand and push the country to recognize other groups.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun