by Tim Newton
They’re out. Now what for the 13 young men from Mae Sai?
They entered the Tham Luang caves on June 23 along with their 25 year old coach, Ekkapol on a benign post-practice trip to the nearby caves. The y’d been there before.
Except for their families, guardians and school friends, they were basically unknown to anyone outside the Mae Sai district, up in far Northern Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar.
They were just kids, 11-16 year old teenagers who had nothing much to worry about except their schooling, their love for football and what to eat next (it’s emerged that they love sweet basil pork – spicy!).
That situation has now changed drastically and they are unwitting overnight (well, 18 day) media stars although we’ve barely seen them except for a few fuzzy videos inside the cave and some masked little faces in the Chiang Rai hospital.
If they thought their life had taken an unplanned swerve when they got stuck inside the cave, that’s nothing compared to what lies ahead for the 13 young men. Profound changes are about to descend on them.
Their lives, and that of their families, are going to be very different following their forced and extended stay inside the bowels of the Khao Nang Non mountains.
How will this be managed? Who is going to protect the interests of each individual as the world’s media try and get their ‘exclusives’, knock on their doors and ‘hunt them down’?
As the authorities have worked diligently to protect the young soccer players from the prying eyes of the media, they’ve unwittingly made the team even more desirable media fodder. So far, we know very, very little about the team, their journey into the cave and how they managed the situation in the dark, waiting. And waiting.
After a week or so there will certainly be some sort of highly stage-managed media conference with a few or all of the team introduced to the media. If not the team we will have some of the key leaders and a few ‘heroes’ lining a stage providing information.
If they don’t accede to even a basic media conference with some representation of the 13 team members then journalists, local and international, will pursue individuals, despite the best wishes of families to ‘respect their privacy’.
The less that is known, the more people will want to know – that’s the nature of media.
It’s doubtful that any of them will be used to talking to hundreds of people, let alone a generally polite but persistent Thai media.
In the meantime the thirteen individuals have to get their lives back on track. Their school counsellors, families, medical staff and mental health experts will surely be keeping an eye on them. And there will be no shortage of support. We can imagine fund-raisers, Go Fund Me campaigns and any number of ways their local community, as well as the wider Thai and international community, will rally to provide whatever resources the young men need.
But how to protect them from their new-found fame?
It’s going to be difficult and some of them will cope better than others. Some will surely want to get back to their lives as anonymous members of their community. Some will better cope with the attention and even take advantage of the many offers that are sure to come their way.
There will be the formal round of official ‘welcome homes’, thank you dinners for the rescue workers, medals awarded, meetings with the Thai PM and perhaps even some members of a ‘special’ Thai family may want to meet them.
Surely there’s the feature articles, the books, the TV appearances, interviews and, eventually, the movies that are bound to follow in the wake of such intense world-wide media interest. Hollywood producers are already in Chiang Rai scoping out the area and picking up background shots. It won’t be one movie, there will be several. And countless TV and web documentaries and analysis.
Then there’s the singular case of 25 year old assistant coach, Ekkapol Chanthawong who, by all accounts, is a responsible community member who loved his work with the football team, his Aunt and his ailing grandmother. Ekkapol, or ‘Ake’, will forever carry the burden of having guided his team into the caves on June 23 for, what was meant to be, a benign excursion following their scheduled Saturday football training. There will be a different type of media attention on him, partly because he’s older and partly because he is the lead character in the story. (There have been stories circulating in some Thai media that Ake actually went in to find the boys and was caught in there, along with the other 12, during his search. The stories are unverified at this stage.)
Of course we mustn’t forget the many rescue workers, from around the globe, and from within the ranks of Thailand’s elite Navy Seal. The international rescue effort has been extraordinary – a bringing together of some of the most competent and skilled cave-diving specialists, a first.
38 year old Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy Seal, gave his life during the rescue effort – dying a hero trying to save others. His loss of life, during valiant efforts to save the group, was the only casualty and an honest reminder of how dangerous the mission was.
The effort to find and retrieve these 13 footballers has been immense – the effort, scale and magnitude of the rescue has probably only been matched following the 2004 tsunami. The sheer complexity, volume of equipment and skills involved to get these youngsters out alive has provided valuable experience for everyone from government officials down to the nurses and staff at the hospitals, local village volunteers and Thailand’s media.
For the 12 members of the Mu Pa football Academy and their loyal mentor, Ekkapol, their lives will now be different in profound ways they can’t even imagine.
Journey back to Tham Luang in ‘The Cave’ – VIDEO
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
PHOTO: Tom Waller – Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit
Less monitoring, more enforcement – Prawit warns northern officials
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
Thai police officer arrested with nearly 200,000 meth pills in his luggage
PHOTO: Thai PBS World
A serving policeman has been arrested by police in Chiang Rai province after 198,000 methamphetamine pills were found in his luggage on a Bangkok-bound bus.
Mae Sai district policemen at a checkpoint in Tambon Pong-Ngam, stopped a Nakhonchai Tour bus bound for Bangkok from Mae Sai, for a routine check. The officers found a locked suitcase on the luggage rack above the front seat, occupied by Pol Lt-Col Surachit Thavuth, and asked him to open the bag for inspection.
Pol Lt-Col Surachit Thavuth is a police investigative inspector in Uthai Thani in central Thailand.
Surachit managed to run out of the bus and hid in the roadside bushes, but was eventually apprehended and brought back to the bus to unlock the bag, where the methamphetamine pills were found.
Surachit told the police he went to Mae Sai to take delivery of the drugs for transport to a drug dealer, whom he identified as ‘Oak’, in Bangkok in return for 100,000 baht. Following his arrest, Thai PBS reports that Surachit was temporarily suspended from duty and a disciplinary committee has been set up to deal with the matter.
Royal Thai Police deputy spokesman Pol Col Krisana Pattanacharoen said the national police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda ordered the investigation to be expanded to find the mastermind behind the drug deal.
SOURCE: Thai PBS World
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