Thai cave rescue: Coach and boys given citizenship

Mongkol Boonpiam (L) as he receives Thai citizen ID card from Mae Sai District Chief Somsak Kanakham (R) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mongkol Boonpiam (pictured), two of his teammates and their coach have all been awarded citizenship

Thailand has granted citizenship to the coach and three members of a football team dramatically rescued from a flooded cave last month.

During their ordeal, it emerged that the boys and their coach were among around 480,000 stateless people living in the south-east Asian country.

It prompted calls to fast-track their citizenship applications.

The four were part of a 13-strong team, known as the Wild Boars, who became trapped deep in a cave on 23 June.

They were found by two British divers nine days later, but it took another six days to rescue the first team members.

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.

Mr Chantawong and three of the youngsters - who were all reportedly born in Thailand - were handed their citizenship cards in a ceremony on Wednesday.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Coach Ekapol Chantawong, who is spending time in a Buddhist monastery, is among 480,000 stateless people in Thailand, according to the UN

Somsak Kanakam, chief officer of Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai, said they had "all the qualifications". However, he told news agency AFP it had nothing to do with the cave incident.

Many of Thailand's stateless people are from nomadic hill tribes and other ethnic groups who have lived around the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China for centuries.

The UN refugee agency believes the group number about 480,000.

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