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Chiang Rai

From inside the cave – bringing out the team. Thai Navy SEAL video.

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The Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page has released a video clip that shows for the first time how the 13 Mu Pa Academy football team members were evacuated from the Tham Luang cave. The 12 young footballers and their 25 year old assistant coach were trapped in the cave since June 23 after flash floods blocked their exit.

They were rescued after a marathon operation involving Thai and foreign experts. The mission ended on June 10. The video showed the boys being extracted from inside the flooded cave amid darkness in what was described as the first time such a method was used in a rescue operation. The footage gave an insight into a complex operation that had numerous divers using pulleys, ropes and rubber piping to take the stranded footballers to safety.

- The Thaiger

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Chiang Rai

Foreign media slammed for intruding on the Mu Pa 13

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The Mu Pa 13 spoke to the Thai and world media on Wednesday night in a one-time-only media conference. Authorities said that it was now time to leave the team alone and let them re-unite with their families and friends, and get back to their studies and football.

The media have mostly respected the wishes and left the team alone – a threat from the Thai Government to prosecute them under Child Protection Laws helped. But there was always going to be the temptation to get the ‘story’. America’s ABC News were the first to transgress on the Government’s and medical authority’s wishes. But there have been other foreign journalists trying to contact members of the team too.

The Justice Department’s deputy permanent secretary Thawatchai Thaikhieu has expressed disappointment at the conduct of some foreign journalists who are defying advice of psychiatrists and child welfare officials against interviewing the young members of the Wild Boars soccer team after they were discharged from the hospital.

“Some foreign media have acted below the professional standard which is something regrettable and unforgivable,” said Mr Thawatchai.  He was apparently responding to an interview that a correspondent of ABC News had with one of the young survivors from Tham Luang cave.

Thai PBS are reporting that the interview has created an uproar on Thai social media after it was aired last night, prompting calls for Thai authorities to take action against the American journalist.

“It is regrettable that foreign media that should be aware of the convention on children’s rights and the process to protect children and youths turnde out to have lower standard than we think. It appears as if they lack common sense and sense of responsibility despite the fact that Thailand has put in place a system to protect this group of children,” wrote Thawatchai in his post.

Child welfare officials and psychiatrists have urged the media to stay away from the 12 young footballers to avoid pressuring them to answer questions that might force them to revisit their harrowing experience.

Here’s the ABC News interview, conducted against the wishes on the Thai Government and officials.

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Chiang Rai

Blessing ceremony dedicated to Saman Kunan. 11 Mu Pa team members poised to enter monkhood.

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PHOTO: AP/Sakchai Lalit

Thai PBS is reporting that members of the Mu Pa soccer team, along with their coach, attended a traditional blessing ceremony at a local temple in Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai this morning.

Nine soldiers entered the monkhood as a dedication to former SEAL member Saman Gunan who died while taking part in the massive rescue operation to retrieve the young footballers trapped in Tham Luang cave.

The Lanna style ceremony was conducted at Wat Phra That Doiwao by 12 monks who included a prominent monk from neighbouring Myanmar to bless the young survivors of the Tham Luang cave saga with good fortunes and longevity.

The Wild Boars boys, who were discharged from Chiang Rai hospital yesterday, also attended a religious ceremony dedicated to ex-Navy SEAL Samarn. The ceremony was also joined by nine soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Battalion who were earlier ordained at another Buddhist temple as a dedication to Saman.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 13 Wild Boars rescued from Tham Luang plan to enter monkhood as a tribute to Samarn on July 23. The two others will not join the ordination as one of them is a Christian and one a Muslim.

Coach Ekkapol Chanthawong reportedly will be in monkhood for three months, while 10 members of the Moo Pa Academy football team will be ordained as novices for nine days.

SOURCE: Thai PBS

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Chiang Rai

The one hour expedition that lasted three weeks

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The 12 Mu Pa teenage footballers and their coach planned visit the Tham Luang caves on June 23. They arrived around 4pm and ventured inside with a plan to spend about an hour exploring. They were meant to be out by 5 pm.

18 days later the last of them emerged after a ‘miraculous’ (their words) rescue involving hundreds of highly skilled divers and specialist cave-divers.

Last night they shared some of their stories in a controlled, but candid, exchange with media. They shared the stage with the Thai doctor who stayed with them from the day they were found until the last footballer had been sent back to the entrance to the cave. There was also three Thai Navy Seals disguised with ‘gangster’ dark sunglasses, the new Chiang Rai Governor, supervising Doctor from the Chiang Rai hospital and two child psychologists sharing the stage with them.

They started by entering the room kicking around a few soccer balls and meeting up with their other team mates from school and the Mu Pa Football Academy. The team unanimously credited the leadership of their 25 year coach Ekkaphol Chanthawong or ‘Aek’ with helping them get through the ordeal.

The young survivors gave vivid accounts of their trip to the cave, how they ended up trapped by sudden flooding and the crucial role played by their older coach in maintaining their positive mind-set and hope despite their predicament.

They recounted how they managed without foods for 10 days and how they were drinking water dripping from the cave walls. They ended up waiting on a dry ledge at the spot known as Nern Nomsao before they were discovered by a team of British divers.

Aek, speaking calmly and showing a maturity belying his 25 years, said they didn’t take any food into the cave because they only intended to be there for an hour and depart before 5 pm. He said he had to bring Titan to an evening class. Earlier media reporting speculated that the team went inside the cave to celebrate the birthday of one of the other team members was incorrect.

Aek was the one who tried to swim out of the flooded tunnel through which they had entered but had to retreat back inside because the tunnel was already fully flooded.

The team spoke about trying to find alternative routes deeper into the cave in attempts to get out, but finally gave up the idea, fearing that it might lead them to an even more perilous situation. Finally, they decided to shelter at the Nern Nomsao ledge which is about 400 metres from the other raised ‘beach’ area called Pattaya Beach.

The team related stories how they took turns using stones to dig holes in the cave and Thai Navy Seals confirmed that they’d managed to dig as deep as 4 metres at one spot. The boys said they would fill their stomachs with water before climbing up the ledge to continue smashing the cave wall.

Thai PBS reports that it was the boys and their coach who decided which of them would be extracted first, not the SEALs or the rescue co-ordinators.

“We decided that the ones whose houses are far away from the cave should leave first. They should go home on the bikes as quickly as possible to tell their families what happened and to get help,” said Aek. The team obviously had no idea at all about the commotion happening outside the cave.

Just about all of the young survivors said that they would study hard, try to join the Navy SEAL or wanted to become professional soccer players. The English-speaking 14 year old Adul, a leading sportspersons and student at his school (and almost as tall as his 25 year old coach), described the team’s surprise when they were discovered. He says some members heard some talking so Coach Aek told them all to be quiet. They went straight down to the water and surprised the divers with their ‘Hello’.

What followed is surely to be made into books, documentaries, Hollywood and Thai movies.

The boys say they never gave up hope of seeing the light of the day again but considered their rescue to be nothing short of a miracle.

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