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4 members of cave-trapped soccer team given Thai citizenship

By Ed Adamczyk
4 members of cave-trapped soccer team given Thai citizenship
Adul Sam-orn, a member of the soccer team trapped for 18 days in a flooded cave, receives his Thai citizenship card from Mai Sai, Thailand, District Chief Somsak Kanakham in a ceremony Wednesday. Photo courtesy Chaing Rai Province/EPA-EFE

Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The Thai government granted citizenship Wednesday to four members of the soccer team rescued from a cave last month after two weeks, the only ones who weren't Thai nationals.

After the dramatic rescue of the 13 team members, it was discovered that four -- Adul Sam-orn, Mongkol Boonpien and Pornchai Khamluang, and coach Ekkapol Chanthawong -- are among about 480,000 stateless people living in Thailand.

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Every playing member of the Thai athletic team, nicknamed the "Wild Boars," is under 15. The 25-year-old coach was praised for keeping the boys safe after the cave flooded and an 18-day rescue began.

The cave drama and heroics involved in the rescue attracted worldwide attention and prompted calls to accelerate the citizenship process for the four lacking certification.

They were handed citizenship cards in a ceremony Wednesday at a Mai Sai government building in Chiang Rai province. The four were among 30 total people granted citizenship.

The teammates were ordained as novices at the Buddhist temple in Mai Sai on July 25. Their coach, ordained at the same time, remains a Buddhist monk.

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