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The unforgettable heroes of Tham Luang – 2018 in retrospect

The Thaiger

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The unforgettable heroes of Tham Luang – 2018 in retrospect | The Thaiger
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The 18 day operation in July to rescue 12 young footballers and their coach trapped in a Chiang Rai cave was 2018’s most memorable event in Thailand. Most notable for the help that poured in from all around the world and the inventive means devised to extract the 13 young men.

It was the assistance from the international community that made ‘mission impossible’, possible after all.

Foreign attention began focusing on the plight of the Mu Pa Football Club members almost as soon as reports emerged on June 23 that they’d become trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex by flash floods.

With the danger’s changing hourly daily and the outcome always in question, it was clear that expertise and equipment would be need beyond the Kingdom’s borders.

The intensive and highly dangerous search-and-rescue operation faced a series of formidable obstacles, including steady downpours that swelled the muddy floodwater in the cave, submerging whole sections of the narrow, jagged escape route, the thinning of the oxygen, the sheer darkness.

It was a new challenge for just about everyone who arrived to contribute to a new, urgent, body of knowledge that had to be assembled.

After nine days of worry, the lost 13 were found alive on July 2, on a dry perch five kilometres from the cave mouth. The desperate race to extricate them ahead of the gathering monsoon went on for another nine agonising days.

While the mission ultimately was a success, it was not accomplished without tragedy. Samarn Kunun, a former Thai Navy Seal known as “Sergeant Sam”, perished on July 6 while placing oxygen canisters along the rescue route for the divers who would bring the 13 young men out.

He sacrificed his life to help save the boys and was duly honoured by the Kingdom and applauded by the world as a hero. In all, more than 10,000 people – Thais and foreigners – were involved in the operation.

First there was Sergeant Sam, who will never be forgotten, and then Narongsak Osottanakorn, who was governor of Chiang Rai at the time and played the crucial role of feeding the media frenzy that was growing as each day passed.

Britons Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, probing ever deeper into the cave in search of the lost boys, were the ones who found them, to their own surprise and to the cheers of everyone tracking the effort on TV, online and in other media.

Both vastly experienced in complex cave rescues, they gave the world reason to believe the risky mission still ahead would eventually succeed.

Dr Richard Harris, an Australian anaesthetist from Adelaide, put on air tanks to work a small miracle of his own. The evacuation route included submerged passages that narrowed to less than 40 centimetres.

The boys and their coach had strong swimmers all around to guide them along, and the journey was made easier by shots of anti-anxiety medication from Dr Harris, ensuring they wouldn’t panic during the ordeal and jeopardise their own safety. Dr. Harris had to educate divers with little medical training how to administer the drugs along the route. He also had to ‘guesstimate’ the doses required to keep them in the right state of ‘calm’ whilst not putting them fully to sleep. The boys were also of wide ranging sizes, each requiring a different approach and dose. Without his skills the rescue operation could not have even taken place.

The Mu Pa affair had after-effects that few people could have foreseen, not least a global outpouring of helpfulness. Reports came in from all corners of random acts of kindness inspired by the Thai drama.

Much more directly for the footballers, the three who had until then been stateless – born of foreign parents and thus denied Thai citizenship – were soon given that citizenship and all the benefits that citizenship would bring.

Ekkapol Chantawong, Phonchai Khamluang and Adul Sam-on inadvertently helped highlight a problem far too long overlooked – more than half a million people living in this country are officially stateless.

The Tham Luang cave is now being developed so that future explorations are safe. There were lessons learned. Thai rescue teams gained valuable experience in cave diving while working alongside world experts.

Watch The Thaiger’s dedication to the events as they unfolded over the agonizing two weeks….

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Chiang Rai

Tham Luang exhibition opens in Chiang Rai, including a replica of part of the cave – VIDEO

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Tham Luang exhibition opens in Chiang Rai, including a replica of part of the cave – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTOS: Chiang Rai Times

A replica of parts of the Tham Luang Cave has been opened for visitors to learn more about the famous cave rescue and experience some of the difficulties faced by rescuers in a replica of parts of the cave, well 30 metres of it anyway.

The exhibition attempts to simulate some of the key incidents that happened during the cave rescue after 13 members of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team were trapped inside from June 23 to July 10 in 2018. The rescue became a huge international story and a new Netflix documentary series releases shortly, including interviews with the 13 young men recalling the stories of the challenges and their fears during the ordeal.

After eventually finding the team members, no mean feat in itself, and international team of divers and Thai Navy Seals came up with a risky plan to extract the entire team, one by one, in a daring 3 day operation. 2 Australian doctors trained the rescuers to administer sedation as the young men were individually brought out of the caves, much of it underwater, through narrow, muddy, winding passageways.

Relive the tense moments of the sage HERE.

If the link doesn’t work on you browser, clickhttps://youtu.be/eYWRD6LbllY

 

The new exhibit recreates moments in the drama with photographs, mannequins and a 30 metre replica section of the Chiang Rai cave network. The Thai government has tightly managed access to the 13 young men since they were rescued from the cave Only one feature film has so far been released and a new Netflix documentary series comes out soon.

The cave itself reopened last year and brought out droves of tourists who wanted to visit the site. Souvenir shops selling trinkets, framed photos of the “Wild Boars” team and t-shirts have also popped up in the park as more curious sightseers explore the area.

Chiang Rai’s governor plans to propose the Tham Luang, Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park as an ASEAN Heritage Park, as the park has geological and biological distinction.

Tham Luang exhibition opens in Chiang Rai, including a replica of part of the cave - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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Bangkok

The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue

The Thaiger

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The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Former Thai Sports and Tourism Minister with Vernon Unsworth MBE

The Isan Project has collaborated with the TAT on new marketing campaign featuring music commemorating the Tham Luang cave rescue.

The story of how 13 young men, members of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, were saved in the caves of Chiang Rai continues to ignites interest in the miraculous internationally-followed rescue in July 2018 from the flooded Tham Luang cave

To honour the safe rescue music video company The Isan Projectrecently launched “Where the Eagles Fly”, video to pay tribute to the British hero of the dramatic saga, Vern Unsworth MBE.

The release of a movie and Netflix mini series shortly will also boost interest globally in Thailand. The series includes the first individual interviews with the boys and they coach.

The launch, in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and supported by the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit and Serenity Wines, was attended by several key persons involved in the rescue mission two years ago, including former Tourism & Sports Minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, who played a major role in flying in special cave divers from the UK as requested by Vernon Unsworth, a recognised cave explorer, who knows virtually every inch of the Tham Luang cave.

“It is absolutely true that without Vernon’s persistence in obtaining the help from the UK cave diving experts to initially spearhead the rescue mission, the boys and their coach would not be alive today.”

“Needless to say, assistance from experienced and skilled cave divers from around the world, who later volunteered to join as well as our own Navy Seals, all contributed to the mission’s ultimate success.”

Vernon Unsworth MBE, his partner Woranan Ratrawiphakkun, and his caving buddy Kamon Kunngamkwamdee, all starred in the “Where the Eagles Fly” fantasy music video, which was set in deep jungle and caves in the mountain of Doi Nang Non in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

“I’m truly honoured to have this song written about me. It was very moving to relive parts of the rescue while making the music video, especially when I think back on how Kamon and I covered over 16 km. on the first day after we knew the boys were missing. We virtually lived in the cave for the first 4 days prior to the arrival of my cave diving colleagues from the UK”.

The story of how the football team were saved in the caves is a heart warming one. For many attending the event it was a privilege and an honour to meet 63 year old Vernon Unsworth in person. An event filled with stories of bravery, emotion and moving music.

Vernon, who has mapped the cave system for 8 years, was the first professional cave diver at the site and realising the enormous danger the boys were in, played a significant rôle in the rescue and earned him the UK’s high honour, an MBE medal.

As the rescue became a race against time ahead of impending monsoon rains, Vernon undertook reconnaissance dives upstream through flooded passages against strong currents.

Weerasak Kowsurat, the former Minister of Tourism and Sports, recalled how a message written on a piece of paper by Vernon and handed to his colleague for safe keeping with instructions that it was to be handed over in case Vernon, fearing the worst, didn’t make it out on an exploratory dive. It was very dangerous work and one Thai diver died during the course of the rescue.

Although Vernon was safe, the message was handed to the Minister who was at the cave site. The message was to contact the British Dive Caving Association and gave names of expert divers and telephone numbers. Within 24 hours the Tourism Minister had managed to get the UK divers on a hastily arranged flight to Thailand to assist in the rescue effort.

The team of UK divers, working under appalling conditions and with time running out, in poor visibility located the team marooned on a ledge above the water about 4 kilometres inside the cave complex.

Writer and executive producer of The Isan Project, Will Robinson says… “Although I had penned and produced “Heroes of Thailand” honouring all those involved in the Tham Luang cave rescue, I felt it was time to pay a special tribute directly to the mastermind of the extremely complex mission.”

“Vernon is such a humble man, I wanted to create a song not only to honour him, but also to establish Tham Luang and what is now known as the ‘Wild Boar Cave’, where the boys were found, as a new tourist attraction for those who love to explore caves.”

At the beginning of the video it reads…

“On June 23, 2018, 12 boys from the Wild Boar football team went exploring the Tham Luang cave with their coach in Chiang Rai. They never returned home that night, next day locals contacted cave explorer Vern Unsworth in nearby Mae Fah Luang. Over the course of the next two weeks Vern put his life on the line for the young football team with a daring rescue engineered by Vern and Elite British cave divers. This song was written in honour of Vern Unsworth M.B.E. and inspired by the above events.”

You can watch the video HERE.

Commenting on the Isan Project Tanes Petsuwan, TAT’s Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications said, “TAT appreciates Will’s love of Thailand, and we are delighted to be supporting this launch. We also believe that this song combined with the newly-published children’s book, “All Thirteen” and the soon-to-be released Hollywood movie, “Thirteen Lives”, will help to dramatically boost tourism in and around Chiang Rai even though we will need to rely mainly on domestic tourists until the end of the year while international travel is still restricted.”

“Where the Eagles Fly”, co-written by Will Robinson and Daniel Ryan, and performed by Daniel himself, is tipped to top the charts when the MGM blockbuster movie, “Thirteen Lives” and the Netflix mini-series about the epic story of the Tham Luang cave rescue are released. The song is now available from all digital music stores including iTunes, Spotify, Apple and Amazon.

The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue | News by The Thaiger

From left: Mr. Sobchai (Ford) Kraiyoonsen Singer/composer, Mr. Tanes Petsuwan TAT’s Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications, Senator Weerasak Kowsurat former Minister of Tourism and Sports, Mr. Vern Unsworth British cave explorer, Mr. Will Robinson Writer and Executive Producer of The Isan Project, Mr. Nithee Seeprae TAT’s Executive Director of Advertising & PR Department, Ms. Woranan Ratrawiphakkun Vern’s partner, Mr. Sammy Carolus GM of the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit

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Crime

25 arrests as police shut down online gambling sites

Maya Taylor

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25 arrests as police shut down online gambling sites | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Pattaya News

25 Thai nationals have been arrested after investigators uncovered 6 online gambling websites run by a gang with funds running into millions of baht. The Pattaya News reports that arrests have taken place in the northern city of Chiang Rai and in Nonthaburi, just north of central Bangkok. It’s understood officers have been tracking the websites for several months.

The first arrests, in Chiang Rai, apprehended a 30 year old man and his 25 year old associate, who it’s believed were running the operation, in addition to 22 others working for them. 40 phones and 8 computers were also confiscated during the raid and arrests. The subsequent questioning of the people they arrested led police to a female website administrator in Nonthaburi. She is accused of getting gamblers to pay money into the company’s bank accounts. A further 14 mobile phones and 4 laptops were seized during her arrest as evidence in the case.

The suspects are currently being held in Bangkok and have been charged with organising, advertising, and encouraging illegal gambling. The investigation is ongoing.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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