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Chiang Rai

Miracle at Tham Luang – The Thailand cave drama unfolds, a year on

The Thaiger

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Miracle at Tham Luang – The Thailand cave drama unfolds, a year on | The Thaiger

On June 23, a year ago, only a few northern Thai locals and serious cave enthusiasts knew much about the Tham Luang Caves in Mae Sai district, about an hour’s drive from Chiang Rai.

But on that sunny afternoon, following their regular football practice, a group of 12 players and their coach, decided to have a quick excursion to the local caves. At the time it was only going to be a quick hour of exploring the caves before heading home. It didn’t quite go as planned.

Head coach for the team, Nopparat Khanthawong, turned on his phone at 7pm that night to find more than 20 missed calls from concerned parents asking where their children were.

The next morning police found the young men’s bikes, bags and a few sets of shoes at the mouth of the cave. A deluge overnight had trapped the exploring team inside. It was clear to the authorities that they were unable to get inside the flooded cave. Were the team still alive? How could they get them out?

Miracle at Tham Luang - The Thailand cave drama unfolds, a year on | News by The Thaiger

Over the next two to three weeks a massive international rescue team would amass at the caves in a mission to figure out how to get the team out. Heavy machinery was flown in, caving experts summoned, Thai Navy Seals donned scuba gear, a long way from Thailand’s coast they were trained to protect.

The Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team were all aged between 11 and 16 years of age. The assistant coach Ekkaphon Chanthawong was 25 years of age. It would be another ten days before the outside world even knew if the team had survived the flooding of the cave.

The search for the team was an international news hit. As the Thai government called in expertise from around the world, an international media contingent also streamed into the muddy surrounds of the cave where a makeshift tent town was being constructed to handle the feeding and sanitation needs for the throngs of international assistants.

Local villagers jumped to action bringing food daily and providing lodgings to the to hundreds of people.

On day ten the 13 team members were finally found. UK divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen were making another exploratory dive, as part of an international team of expert cave divers which had by now made several missions into the muddy waters. The team were found on a sandy ledge some 4 kilometres inside the Tham Luang Cave system.

Miracle at Tham Luang - The Thailand cave drama unfolds, a year on | News by The Thaiger

But finding the Mu Pa team was the easy part compared with what was to follow.

None of the boys were competent swimmers, in fact most of them couldn’t swim at all. Rescuers looked for access from above the caves in hopes of drilling down to rescue the team. As the days passed messages were passed on from the boys via divers to their parents. Food was brought in. It was even mooted that the team could ‘live’ in the caves for up to four months and wait out the wet-season and the flooding waters to subside.

At the end of the second week though the situation became more urgent as heavy rains threatened and it was feared the waters would continue rising and drown the team. They needed to get them out, now.

Whilst putting the young men in wetsuits and diving gear and swimming them out one by one was considered, it was fraught with danger because of their complete lack of experience and the risk of panic whilst crawling through the narrow underwater sections. Divers, who had been through the narrow, flooded chambers a number of times, said it was a major challenge for them, despite their years of experience.

At this stage two Australian cave divers, Richard Harris and Craig Challen who were also medical professionals, came up with an outrageous plan.

They would sedate the team, put them on stretchers, and bring each of them out with a diver steering the stretcher at the front and back. Every few hundreds of metres other divers and medics would be waiting, check on the boys’ vital signs and re-administer the sedation. Everyone had to be trained quickly and the boys informed of what was going to happen. Only one of the team spoke any English.

It was an extremely risky plan but the pressure was on to get the team out before the rains returned. It was decided to go ahead with the dangerous extraction mission.

Between July 8 and 10 all of the young men were rescued from the caves by the cobbled-together international team in three waves.

The entire rescue effort involved over 10,000 people, including over 100 divers, local and international rescue workers, staff from 100 Thai government agencies, 900 police officers and 2,000 soldiers.

Ten police helicopters, seven police ambulances, 700 diving cylinders, and huge pumps removing more than a billion litres of water from the caves, were deployed during the rescue mission.

There was one fatality, Saman Kunan, a 37 year old former Thai Navy SEAL died of asphyxiation on July 6 after delivering supplies of air between chambers in the cave in the days before the team was discovered.

A year later, the Tham Luang Caves have become a major northern tourist attraction. Visitors go there with a fascination to see where the drama of the footballers, their coach, the rescuers, world media and local community unfolded in a totally unexpected drama.

The rising number of tourists persuaded the Department of National Parks to upgrade Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non forest into a new national park. The site now covers 12,000 rai of land. There is a new attraction near the cave mouth showcasing the people, the drama, maps, statistics, photos and a huge 13 metre mural. There is also a statue of Saman “Ja Sam” Kunan, the one fatality from the drama whose bravery reminds visitors of the hundreds who made the plunge into the muddy cave waters to save the team.

And then there was all the unsung heroes like local Rawinmat Lueloet, who offered his laundry’s services free for two weeks to tend to the mud-stained clothes of rescuers. There were so, so many others.

In the wake of the rescue the members of the football team, some who had been ‘stateless’ – living in Thailand without a nationality or passport – have been granted Thai nationality. The team members and Ekkaporn have also made a few trips overseas and will feature in a new series being produced by Netflix at the moment.

The Thaiger put together a very quick edit of some of the milestones of the mission in the frantic two weeks and hope you’ll enjoy reliving some of the amazing memories that started a year ago today.

Miracle at Tham Luang - The Thailand cave drama unfolds, a year on | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Wikipedia

 

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Chiang Mai

Jump in national park visitor numbers as ‘winter’ arrives in northern Thailand

May Taylor

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Jump in national park visitor numbers as ‘winter’ arrives in northern Thailand | The Thaiger

As northern Thailand moves into the ‘cold season’ (well, cold for Thailand) and temperatures drop, national park officials are reporting an increase in visitor numbers. Whilst the temperature is cooling down on the local northern mountain tops, the ground level temperatures are still around 30 (forecast below). But later in December the temperatures sometime reach as low as zero for places like Doi Inthanon.

The Bangkok Post is reporting that Kritsayam Khongsatri, Head of Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai says the park welcomed 21,994 visitors over the recent long weekend, over 7,000 a day.

Kritsayam says most of the visitors are Thais who enjoy camping in the colder weather, with average temperatures at the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, being just 5-11 degrees Celsius.

Khao Yai National Park, north east of Bangkok, has also seen a significant increase in visitor numbers, with wild elephants coming out from the jungle to feel the warmth of the sun as temperatures dropped to below 20 Celsius yesterday.

“Visitors to the park are being asked to refrain from using car horns, or bright lights such as flashing cameras and full beam headlights to avoid disturbing the resident elephants.”

Winter in northern Thailand typically sees a dip in temperatures and a decline in rainfall coupled with strengthening winds from the north.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Jump in national park visitor numbers as 'winter' arrives in northern Thailand | News by The Thaiger Jump in national park visitor numbers as 'winter' arrives in northern Thailand | News by The Thaiger

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Chiang Rai

Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller on site during the filming of The Cave – AFP

Determined divers racing against time. Rising waters threatening lives. 12 teenagers and their soccer coach trapped inside for two weeks. A remote cave that most had never heard of.

The stuff of a Hollywood drama, except that it’s all true and happened in Chiang Rai last year. Now the first of several re-tellings of the story comes to the big screen in The Cave.

The ordeal in late June and early July last year had barely ended when filmmakers began their own race to get the nail-biting drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects premiered at the start of October, when director Tom Waller’s The Cave showed at the Busan Film Festival in South Korea.

The film was shot over three months earlier this year and has been in post-production since then. The 45 year old Thai-British filmmaker says the epic tale of the Wild Boars (Mu Pa) football team was a story he simply had to tell.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet.”

The 13 young men entered the Tham Luang cave complex after soccer practice and were quickly trapped inside by rising floodwater. The boys were forced to spend nine nights lost in the cave, whilst Navy Seal and other diver searched frantically, before they were spotted by a British diver.

It would take another eight days before they were all safe, against all odds, in a risky mission.

Waller was visiting his father in Ireland when he saw television news accounts of the drama.

“I thought this would be an amazing story to tell on screen.”

But putting the parts together after their dramatic rescue proved to be a challenge. Thailand’s government, led by the military NCPO, became very protective of the story, barring unauthorised access to the Mu Pa team or their parents. Waller often feared his production might be shut down.

His good fortune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province had multiple angles and interesting characters. Especially compelling were the stories of the rescuers, particularly the expert divers who rallied from around the world. He decided to make a film “about the volunteer spirit of the rescue.”

Other people proposed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Netflix nailed down those rights in a deal brokered by the Thai government.

“I took the view that this was going to be a story about the people we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet. They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that that was more of an exciting story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out.”

Waller even had more than a dozen key rescue personnel play themselves.

Waller said they were natural actors, blending in almost seamlessly with the professionals around them, and helped by the accuracy of the settings and the production’s close attention to detail.

“What you are really doing is asking them to remember what they did and to show us what they were doing and what they were feeling like at the time. That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real.”

Waller says his film is likely to have a visceral effect on some viewers, evoking a measure of claustrophobia.

“It’s a sort of immersive experience with the sound of the environment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the water is not clear.”

“In Hollywood films, when they do underwater scenes, everything is crystal clear. But in this film it’s murky and I think that’s the big difference. This film lends itself to being more of a realistic portrayal of what happened.”

Some scenes were filmed on location at the entrance to the actual Tham Luang cave, but most of the action was shot elsewhere.

“We filmed in real water caves that were flooded, all year-round. It is very authentic in terms of real caves, real flooded tunnels, real divers and real creepy-crawlies in there. So it was no mean feat trying to get a crew to go and film in these caves.”

The Cave goes on general release in Thailand on November 28.

ORIGINAL ARTICE: Associated Press | Time.com

Journey back to Tham Luang in 'The Cave' - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Tom Waller – Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit

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Air Pollution

Less monitoring, more enforcement – Prawit warns northern officials

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Less monitoring, more enforcement – Prawit warns northern officials | The Thaiger

PHOTO: The Thaiger

Thai Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa were in Chiang Mai yesterday to give provincial governors and state agency officials a ‘heads up’ in preparation for another looming season of forest fires and haze.

The North suffers perennial choking smog from approximately February to April, and Prawit passed on a message from PM Prayut Chan-o-cha who, he said, was fretting over the impact on people’s health.

He said the Environment Ministry would take the lead in coordinating with neighbouring countries and related local authorities to monitor the fire problem both in and outside Thailand.

The fires are lit in northern Thailand, and over the border in Myanmar, as burn-offs to prepare for the next year’s crops. Last year’s choking smoke haze was headline news for months.

SOURCE: The Nation

Less monitoring, more enforcement - Prawit warns northern officials | News by The Thaiger

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