Thailand is considering giving citizenship to four stateless members of the Thai soccer team who were trapped in a cave

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  • Four members of the soccer team that were rescued from a Thai cave are being considered for Thai citizenship.
  • Three of the boys and their 25-year-old coach are members of different ethnic groups and are stateless inside of Thailand.
  • During a press conference on Wednesday, officials said that the boys have submitted their official citizenship applications and are being processed for consideration.
  • At least 480,000 stateless people live in Thailand, though the actual number could be as high as 3 million – more than 4% of the country’s 70 million inhabitants.

Four members of the soccer team that were rescued after being trapped in a Thai cave are being considered for Thai citizenship.

Three of the boys, Mongkol “Mark” Boonpium, 13, Adul Sam-on, 14, and Pornchai “Tee” Khamluang, 16, along with their 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chanthawong, are members of several different ethnic groups, according to Associated Press, and are part of a large number of stateless people living in Thailand.

During a press conference on Wednesday, officials said that the stateless soccer players have submitted their official citizenship paperwork and their applications are being processed for consideration.

While many have called for the boys, who have become national icons, to become Thai citizens, the official added that their applications will be processed “in due time.”

Coach Ekapol is a member of the ethnic Shan minority, according to the New York Times, and entered a Buddhist monestary when he was a young boy following the death of his parents in Myanmar. Ekapol has been credited with helping keep the children safe inside the cave and used his training to teach the boys to meditate inside the cave in order to conserve energy.

Adul, a member of the Wa ethnic group according to the Times, speaks English well and was able to communicate to the British divers who initially found the group inside the cave and helped bring the boys to safety.

At least 480,000 stateless people live in Thailand, according to the United Nations refugee agency, though rights groups say the actual number could be as high as 3 million – over 4% of the country’s nearly 70 million inhabitants.

Many stateless people in Thailand are victims of neighboring Myanmar’s years of ethnic conflict, and the northern Chiang Rai region has long served as an entry point into Thailand for migrants.

Thailand has refused to ratify the United Nations convention guaranteeing rights for refugees, so while stateless people are eligible for basic education and healthcare, Reuters reported they also face travel restrictions and access to financial services, and cannot get married or buy property.