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Comment: They’re out. Now what? The future for Mu Pa football team members.

Tim Newton

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Comment: They’re out. Now what? The future for Mu Pa football team members. | The Thaiger
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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’?

Comment: They're out. Now what? The future for Mu Pa football team members. | News by The Thaiger

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.

Comment: They're out. Now what? The future for Mu Pa football team members. | News by The Thaiger

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.

Comment: They're out. Now what? The future for Mu Pa football team members. | News by The Thaiger

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Chiang Rai. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Chiang Rai

2 Burmese nationals arrested while crossing river into Thailand

Maya Taylor

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2 Burmese nationals arrested while crossing river into Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.orientalescape.com

Border forces have arrested 2 Burmese nationals as they were crossing a river in the northern province of Chiang Rai in an attempt to enter Thailand. There has been an increase in security patrols along the border with Myanmar in recent weeks, as the country experiences a spike in Covid-19 cases. There have been reports of Burmese nationals attempting to enter Thailand without submitting to any of the Covid-19 measures currently in place, including testing and mandatory quarantine.

The latest arrests are of a 20 year old man named only as Saiunkaew, and 30 year old Sailu. Both men were detained while crossing the Mae Sai river, in the Koh Chang sub-district of Chiang Rai.

2 Burmese nationals arrested while crossing river into Thailand | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Nation Thailand

Saiunkaew says he travelled from Myanmar’s Shan state and claims he was on his way to study at Chiang Mai’s Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University. He says he paid 4,000 baht to an agency in his home country to facilitate his border crossing. Sailu says he was hoping to find work in Thailand, adding that he paid 17,400 baht to Burmese border officials in order to allow him cross. Both men are now being processed by Chiang Rai Immigration, after which they will be deported to Myanmar.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Crime

Immigration announce the arrest of 18 Chinese illegal migrants in Chiang Rai

Jack Burton

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Immigration announce the arrest of 18 Chinese illegal migrants in Chiang Rai | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: 77kaoded

Immigration officers yesterday announced the arrest of 18 undocumented Chinese immigrants Chiang Rai on August 2, who reportedly attempted to cross the Mekong River from Laos to enter the kingdom illegally. A team of investigating officers from the Chiang Saen Immigration Checkpoint was patrolled the Mekong River area after receiving a tip that a group of unlawful migrants would be smuggled from Ton Pheung District in northwestern Laos via boat.

The 18 were caught as they reached a riverbank behind a restaurant in the Chiang Saen district around 5:50pm August 2. They were brought to Chiang Saen Police Station for an initial interrogation and to arrange a translator, since none of the group any travel documents.

They were initially charged with entering the Kingdom of Thailand without permission and failing to comply with the Disease Control Act, according to an announcement. That order requires that all potential immigrants go through proper channels to enter the country and enter a mandatory 14 day quarantine, amoong other rules and regulations. The commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, told the Thai Associated Press:

“The public health officers did an initial temperature test on all the immigrants and none of them showed a sign of Covid-19 coronavirus infection. The group did not have exposure to the general public as they were caught swiftly.”

“They were detained at the Chiang Saen police station for legal proceedings. Meanwhile, investigators were checking their mobile data and usage of their mobile phones as they might contain useful information regarding people who may have contributed to this trafficking or lead to further investigation.”

Thailand has been cracking down on illegal border crossings and encouraging residents of border towns to report any strangers. Thailand has officially gone 86 days with no confirmed locally transmitted cases of Covid-19, but has identified the danger of illegal immigrants importing the virus from elsewhere as the biggest potential roadblock to staying free of the disease. International borders remain closed for general tourists and only small, select groups of foreigners are currently allowed to enter the country.

It’s unclear why the group were trying to enter Thailand or where they were originally from in China.

Immigration announce the arrest of 18 Chinese illegal migrants in Chiang Rai | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: The Pattaya News | 77kaoded

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Crime

Police: No foul play in Vorayuth witness’s death

Jack Burton

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Police: No foul play in Vorayuth witness’s death | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Police today ruled out the possibility of murder in the death of a key witness in Red Bull drinks heir Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya’s hit-and-run case. The regional police commander in Chiang Mai, where the witness died in a motorcycle incident last month, said new autopsy results found no trace of any suspicious substance apart from alcohol in Jaruchart Mardthong’s body. Investigators ruled his death a drunk driving incident. A high concentration (218 milligrams) of alcohol was found in his bloodstream.

“All the evidence suggested that it was an accident. We also found no evidence which suggests the driver of the other motorcycle knew Jaruchart before they met.”

The other motorcyclist was identified as Somchai Tawino, but no charges have yet been filed for his involvement in the incident, according to police.

Jaruchart was one of 2 witnesses who told investigators that Vorayuth was driving under 80 kmph when his Ferrari crashed into a patrol motorcycle, killing senior police officer Wichian Klanprasert in Bangkok in 2012. Their testimonies are believed to have contributed to prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges against Vorayuth.

His abrupt death during renewed scrutiny over the case prompted many to believe a conspiracy was involved. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha himself instructed authorities to secure Jaruchart’s body for further examination earlier this month, just hours before it was due to be cremated.

Investigators will also question Pasin Akaradejthanachot, an aide to the former Chiang Mai Senator Chuchai Lertpongadisorn, who stole and destroyed Jaruchart’s phone from the hospital.

Pasin had said to police that he was concerned about the photos of him taken with Jaruchart, which could have affected his campaign for a local election.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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