The UN refugee agency on Thursday welcomed the move by the Thai government to grant citizenship to three boys and their football coach, who were recently rescued from a cave in Chiang Rai in an extraordinary operation led by Thai authorities.
“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,” said Carol Batchelor, UNHCR’s special advisor on statelessness.
“By granting them citizenship, Thailand has provided them with a formal identity that will pave the way for them to achieve their aspirations and to participate as full members of society, for them to belong.”
The four formerly stateless team members are: Adul Samon, Mongkol Boonpium, Pornchai Khamluang and assistant coach Ekkapol Chantawong. The were among 13 members of the Mu Pa football club who went missing in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district in late June.
“People living with statelessness often face a lifetime of uncertainty,” said Batchelor. “This is a shining example of how positive action by a state can aid people and quickly resolve their stateless situation. We welcome this effort by Thailand and urge all states hosting stateless populations to help eradicate this entirely avoidable blight on humanity.”
UNHCR noted that Thailand has been a regional leader in taking action to end statelessness. Some 100,000 people have been granted Thai citizenship since 2008 and the government has also committed to finding nationality solutions for 480,000 currently stateless individuals by 2024.
UNHCR said it and its partner, the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA), continued to support the Thai government and stateless communities in Thailand to reach the country's goal to eradicate statelessness.
In 2014, UNHCR launched its #IBelong campaign, with the intention of ending statelessness across the globe within a decade.