Thailand may grant citizenship to 'stateless' boys, coach rescued from cave

By On July 13, 2018

Thailand may grant citizenship to 'stateless' boys, coach rescued from cave

Thailand is considering granting citizenship to the coach and three stateless young members of the soccer team that was trapped inside a flooded cave complex for more than two weeks â€" one of whom is something of a prodigy who speaks four languages, according to a new report.

The players, Adul Sam-on, Pornchai Kamluang and Mongkhol Boonpiam â€" plus their coach, Ekaphol Chantawong â€" hail from northern Thailand’s porous and largely lawless border regions abutting Myanmar’s Shan state, the Guardian reported. All four are technically stateless and not considered citizens under Thai law â€" even though the three boys have Thai ID cards, which allow them to attend school and have access to health services, Puttanee Kangkun, a Thai human rights specialist for Fortify Rights, told the outlet.

The coach has no legal status, making him susceptible to face deportation a nd leaving him ineligible to receive some public services, according to the report.

One of the team members, Sam-on, is a top student and athlete whose proficiency in languages allowed him to act as translator for the British divers who helped rescue the team, CBS News reported.

Sam-on, a midfielder, is from a poor hill tribe in Myanmar but travels across the border to play soccer and attend school, where he also learned to speak Thai and Mandarin, as well as play three musical instruments, according to an AFP report.

Venus Sirsuk, the director of the Bureau of Registration at the Thai interior ministry, told the Guardian his office was looking into granting citizenship for the boys and their coach.

“Right now, the officials in Mae Sai district office are looking into their birth evidence,” Sirsuk told the outlet. “We have to see whether they were born in Thailand, and whether they have either a Thai father or mother.”

He said he had “no idea” how long it would take, adding that “it depends on whether we find the documents.”

On Wednesday night, provincial governor and rescue commander, Narongsak Osatanakorn, appeared to imply in a public address that citizenship is a possibility for the four.

“I believe they will grow up to be great citizens of Thailand,” he declared.

But when the Guardian pressed him for clarification, he appeared unfamiliar with the three boys’ statelessness.

“Everything will have to proceed according to the law,” he said. “There is the Nationality Act. If they are legally entitled to the right, they will get it. It depends on whether they have the right.”

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Moving footage of the 12 Thai soccer players and their... The statelessness issue was barely mentioned in Thai media until Thursday, a campaigner for the rights of stateless people in northern Thailand told the paper.

“I don’t think Thai media presents this issue much, and if they did, they do not understand the issue well,” the campaigner, who only goes by Pim, told The Guardian. “I read that some people called the coach Burmese, just because he doesn’t have a Thai ID.”

Kangkun told the Guardian that applications under Thailand’s Nationality Act are considered on a case-by-case basis, but since the rescue has garnered so much attention, some steps could be bypassed.

“If there is strong political will from high-ranking state officers, the process could hasten, and the boys would be able to get Thai nationality in short period of time,” she said. “Of course, I’m very happy if the boys get Thai nationality, as they will be able to access full citizenship rights.”

“It’s good for them,† Pim added. “I’m happy for them. It’s just a shame that we have to wait for them to risk their lives and be in the dark for weeks first before they will get what they are entitled to.”

The last four boys in the 12-member team and their coach were rescued on Tuesday from the cave where they’d been trapped by floodwaters for 18 days since going missing on June 23.

Source: Google News Thailand | Netizen 24 Thailand

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