Thailand has granted citizenship to stateless members of the football team rescued from a cave last month in a saga which gripped the world.
The story of the “Wild Boars” club has dominated headlines since the 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach went exploring in Tham Luang cave on June 23 and were trapped deep inside by rising floodwaters, setting off an international search dubbed “Mission Impossible”. They spent nine days inside subsisting on rainwater from rocks before being located. Days later they were extracted in a complex operation in which they were sedated, carried and stretched out of the waterlogged passages.
Thailand is home to around 480,000 stateless people, according to the UN refugee agency. The long-ignored issue came into focus during the rescue mission when it was revealed that four of those trapped inside lacked citizenship, prompting calls for the government to fast-track applications.
“Today all of you get Thai citizenship,” Mae Sai district chief Somsak Khanakham said in a ceremony, as they were handed national ID cards.
But the event was advertised proudly on the local government’s Facebook page with the words: “Wild Boars revel! Got Thai citizenship.” Many of Thailand’s stateless people are from nomadic hill tribes and other ethnic groups who have for centuries lived around the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China.