Three members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach who were dramatically rescued from a flooded cave last month have been granted Thai citizenship.
Coach Ekapol Chantawong, 25, and the three youngsters, who were among the group of 13 trapped in the cave, were presented their citizenship cards in a ceremony on Wednesday night.
The move comes after it was revealed during their ordeal that they were among the 480,000 stateless people living in Thailand, despite being born there.
The four became trapped in the Tham Luang caves system in Chiang Rai province on June 23, when a rainy-season downpour flooded the cave system and trapped them underground.
They survived nine days on water dripping from rocks before they were discovered by two British divers.
An international rescue effort was required to extract the Wild Boars members, taking another nine days for the first of the boys to be rescued.
It took until July 10 for Mr Chantawong and the final three boys to be finally rescued.
Somsak Kanakam, chief officer of Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai, said all four had “all the qualifications” for citizenship and that it had nothing to do with the cave incident, news agency AFP reported.
Reuters reported the cave ordeal prompted calls to fast-track their citizenship applications.
“All children born in Thailand must have Thai birth certificates in order to qualify for Thai citizenship,” Mr Kanakam said.
Many of Thailand’s stateless people come from nomadic hill tribes and other ethnic groups who have lived around the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and China for centuries – areas where national borders have changed.
Of the 486,000 stateless people in Thailand, 146,269 of them are younger than 18 years old.