12 Thai boys and their football coach were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand over a three-day course of from July 8-10 after being trapped inside for 18 days. Hundreds of experts from across the world played a part in the rescue efforts that took about a week before a pair of British divers were able to safely get the footballers all out.
Adul Sam-on, a 14-year-old member of the Wild Boars football team, was an instrumental part of the rescue efforts. Sam-on, who is proficient in five languages, including English, communicated with the divers and alerted them that food was much needed for the boys and their coach.
There is even more good news for Sam-on, fellow teammates Pornchai Kamluang and Mangkhol Boonpiam, and coach Ekkapol Chantawong. The four will receive legal assistance from authorities to obtain Thai nationality. Authorities say if there are no halts in the process, they will have citizenship within six months.
The three footballers and their coach are currently among the 500,000 “stateless” individuals in Thailand. Despite the fact that, according to Puttanee Kangkun, a Thai human rights specialist for Fortify Rights, stateless individuals have the right to an education and access to health services, there are still limitations placed upon the prosperity they can reach as non-citizens.
“Their rights are… limited in other areas – mainly the right to work and freedom of movement, as they need to seek permission to travel outside of their province and will also face difficulties applying for a passport,” Kangkun said in an interview with The Guardian.
Stateless people are also unable to legally work or open a bank account, and thus, are vulnerable to forms of labor exploitation.
International rights groups have faith that the brave boys and their coach who are looking to obtain citizenship will spread awareness of the plights of stateless people in Thailand.
“We are hopeful that this tale will shine a light on the dreadful challenges faced by stateless peoples both in Thailand and across the region,” Sanna Johnson, a regional vice president for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said in an interview with The Independent.
As for the health of all 12 thai boys who were rescued, Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand’s health department, says they are doing well physically and mentally.
“From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed,” the inspector said. “The children were well taken care of in the cave”