UNITED NATIONS (New York), The conferment of Thai citizenship on three of the 12 boys and their soccer coach, rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand last month, has fetched praise from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The rescue operation of the 12 boys and their coach was closely watched by viewers worldwide, with many governments, NGOs and private individuals coming forth to offer assistance in the rescue efforts.
But when the rescue was successfully completed, it was discovered that three of the boys and their coach, while being longterm residents of Thailand, were actually stateless.
Some half a million people in Thailand, belonging to nomadic hill tribes and other ethnic groups that live along the border areas do not possess Thai citizenship.
Carol Batchelor, the UNHCR's special advisor on stateless issues, welcomed the granting of citizenship to the boys, saying that this would make a significant difference in the future of the boys and their coach.
By granting them citizenship, Thailand has provided them with a formal identity that will pave the way for them to achieve their aspirations and to participate as full members of society, she said.
According to the UNHCR, there are several million people stateless worldwide, and are unable to have access to even basic rights and services. Besides lacking a proper national identity, other obstacles that affect their lives include being refused the right to travel, marry, own property, or carry out proper work.
The gesture by the Thai Government has been well received at the world body. The country received praise from the UNHCR as a leader in regional efforts to end statelessness.
One UN official told Bernama that during the last ten years, some 100,000 people had been granted Thai citizenship, and that Thailand's Government had committed itself to finding nationality solutions for all those living within its borders by 2024.
Commenting on the rescue of the trapped boys and their coach in the flood cave in Thailand, Batchelor described the Thai Government's actions as a shining example of how positive action by a state, can aid people and quickly resolve their stateless situation. We welcome this effort by Thailand and urge all States hosting stateless populations to help eradicate this entirely avoidable blight on humanity.
UNHCR has, meanwhile, reiterated that it would continue to support the Thai Government and stateless communities in Thailand to reach the country's ambitious 2024 target.
Source; NAM News Network