Boys rescued from cave, once stateless, get Thai citizenship

4 Wild Boars Granted Thai Citizenship: Official

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

Three of the schoolboys and their coach rescued from a flooded cave have been granted Thai citizenship.

Nopparat Kanthawong, the 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. Days later they were extracted in a complex operation in which they were sedated, carried and stretchered out of the waterlogged passages.

According to Thai government statistics, there are 488,105 stateless people registered in Thailand, but that number could be as high as 3.5 million, according to the International Observatory on Statelessness.

This led to calls for the government to fast-track applications, AFP reported.

"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.

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Somsak Kanakam, chief officer of Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai, said they had "all the qualifications".

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.

The clarification from Venus came as the Interior Ministry was criticised by some, who accused it of showing favouritism to the Mu Pa boys despite a backlog of over 400,000 stateless people who have applied for Thai citizenship.

Eleven of the boys and their coach recently entered a monastery for several days to ordain and "make merit" according to Buddhist ritual for Saman Kunan.

Weeks after the rescue, interest in their ordeal is still strong and Hollywood-style production houses are racing to take the story to the big screen.

The risky rescue brought all 13 members of the team to safety.

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