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Stateless Members Of The Thai Soccer Team Have Been Granted Citizenship

Three young soccer players from the Wild Boars team plus their coach were given Thai citizenship at an official ceremony.

Posted on August 9, 2018, at 7:07 a.m. ET

Three boys from the Wild Boars soccer team — who last month made headlines worldwide after they became stuck in a flooded cave for almost three weeks — have been granted Thai citizenship.

Soccer players Mongkhol Boonpiam, Pornchai Kamluang, and Adul Sam-orn — plus their coach, Ekkapol Chantawong — received identity cards at a ceremony in Chiang Rai province's Mae Sai district office on Wednesday.

The four are from an area on the northern Thai border near Myanmar's Shan State. Many stateless people in Thailand are from ethnic minorities or nomadic hill tribes that straddle the borders of other countries. Prior to their citizenship ceremony, the three boys had a version of Thai ID cards that granted only basic rights, while Ekkapol had no legal status.

During last month's rescue, the stateless boys became a talking point. Many worried about their status following the rescue of the 12 young soccer players and their coach.

Idea: Several of the boys trapped in the Thai cave are stateless. Thailand could consider giving them citizenship. Retweet if you like this idea. #WildBoars

Some media outlets reported that it can take up to 10 years for people to receive citizenship, during which they would have limited freedom and rights.

Following the rescue, Thai authorities promised the four legal assistance and citizenship within six months.

Adul received particular attention as his knowledge of English hugely assisted with the rescue effort when communicating with foreign divers who first located the group.

Ekkapol appeared at the ceremony in monk's robes, having entered monkhood following the rescue to honor Samarn Kunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL officer who died trying to save the team.

The United Nations estimates that at least 480,000 people are stateless in Thailand.

During the rescue, people credited the four for raising awareness about the difficulty many face in getting Thai citizenship.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.