Stateless 'Wild Boars' case shows policy reform need

Stateless 'Wild Boars' case shows policy reform need

Mongkol Boonpiam, left, one of the four Wild Boars football team members who have officially received Thai nationality, smiles as he receives his citizen's ID card from Mae Sai District Chief Somsak Kanakham on Wednesday. (Photo by Chiang Rai Public Relations Office via EPA)
Mongkol Boonpiam, left, one of the four Wild Boars football team members who have officially received Thai nationality, smiles as he receives his citizen's ID card from Mae Sai District Chief Somsak Kanakham on Wednesday. (Photo by Chiang Rai Public Relations Office via EPA)

On Wednesday, four of the 13 Wild Boars football team members who survived harrowing days of intense deprivation in the dark Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai last month became Thai citizens. No longer subject to the deprivations of being statelessness, they can now look forward to living lives with real purpose.

They can accept an invitation from Manchester United to travel to the UK and watch a football match or travel freely in their own country to play in football matches. They can apply for government scholarships for college and they can earn diplomas. They can now work and provide for their own families and they can and will confer citizenship when they have their own children.

This is, indeed, a moment to celebrate. However, as someone who has worked on the issue of statelessness in northern Thailand for years, I contend that the "conferral" of citizenship to the four Wild Boars and 26 other people in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district should be a call to action. Thailand can and should be the global leader in statelessness eradication, and the time to act is now.

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Amanda Flaim

MSU Visiting Assistant Professor

Amanda Flaim is a former research consultant at Unesco in Bangkok and a research associate at the Centre for Ethnic Studies and Development at Chiang Mai University. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at James Madison College of Public Affairs, Michigan State University.


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