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Chiang Rai

The unforgettable heroes of Tham Luang – 2018 in retrospect

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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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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Chiang Rai sees 2 new infections linked to Bangkok, Chiang Mai entertainment venues

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Facebook photo via สำนักงานสาธารณสุขจังหวัดเชียงราย (Chiang Rai Provincial Health Office)

Chiang Rai is reporting 2 new Covid infections that are linked to entertainment venue clusters from Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The people who tested positive for the virus have entered a 14 day mandatory hospital quarantine. The governor of Chiang Rai and chair of the Communicable Diseases Committee ordered anyone travelling to the province from a red zone to self-monitor for 14 days and avoid contact with others.

He also noted that anyone returning to Chiang Rai from a controlled area must contact the village headman and community leader to organise village health volunteers. All of those who enter the province must follow Covid safety precautions with anyone violating the measures to be fined up to 20,000 baht under the Communicable Disease Act B.E. 2557.

Chiang Rai’s local officials have also voiced concern over Songkran, or the Thai new year festivities, and have banned water-splashing, foam parties, food catering and other types of close contact activities. Entertainment venues, pubs, karaoke, bars, and taverns are temporarily closed. And, other facilities like gyms, and tutoring companies are also ordered to limit visitors.

Health officials are also waiting for Covid-19 test results from 2 other people in Mae Sai district who returned from the same entertainment venues in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The news of another Covid outbreak has prompted the government to cancel the Songkran festivities in Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Chiang Rai Province has received 5,000 doses of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine that will be administered to certain groups of people who are on the frontlines in areas of Muang Chiang Rai District and border areas in 7 districts: Mae Sai, Mae Chan, Mae Fah Luang, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Wiang Kaen, and Thoeng. The government also plans to distribute 800,000 doses of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine to 22 provinces sometime in April.

But the vaccine’s effectiveness has come under scrutiny after Brazilian officials reported that the vaccine was only 50.4% effective in preventing Covid infections. That number is apparently quite low compared to what Sinovac Biotech quoted at 78%.

 

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Crime

Officials tracking down foreigners with fake IDs opening up illegal businesses in Chiang Rai

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Thai news site TNA is reporting that the Department of Special Investigation is investigating 255 foreigners who are allegedly in possession of fake Thai IDs in the Wiang Kaen district of Chiang Rai. The report also claims that they were operating illegal businesses.

One of the suspects is Chinese but carried a Thai ID saying that he was a Thai citizen “Apao Saesoen”. The man later registered a company to run a business reserved for Thai citizens. The DSI believe that the issuing of fake Thai IDs could affect national security. The Chinese man, whose real name is Wen Haomiao, is now being tracked down after the issue of an arrest warrant.

The origins of the other foreigners, reported as ‘aliens’ in the Thai media, were not made apparent in the article.

The DSI director-general says his department is working with the local Department of Provincial Administration as they track down the sources of the fake documents. So far the investigation is concentrated in the Wiang Kaen district, in the far east of the province, on the Laos border.

The provincial office is trying to find and revoke Thai ID cards earlier issued for 50 foreigners. 7 of them had already set up alleged fake Thai companies.

Fake Thai IDs and other documentation was readily available is various markets around the country, especially in touristy areas. But recent crackdowns have pushed the lucrative market underground although fake documentation remains a popular business in Thailand. Khao San Road was a hive of fake documentation until a crackdown in 2018 forced most of the illegal vendors off the streets.

SOURCE: TNA

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Border officials on alert for Burmese coup protesters fleeing military crackdown

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PHOTO: Wikimedia

Border police have increased patrols in the northern province of Chiang Rai amid concerns that Burmese protesters may try to cross into the Mae Sai district. This follows a military crackdown in the Burmese border town of Tachilek as the army tries to quell anti-coup rallies.

According to a Bangkok Post report, Sompong Chingduang from Thailand’s Immigration Bureau says the authorities in Mae Sai continue to monitor the situation in Tachilek. On Saturday, 2 protesters were killed in the Burmese city of Mandalay after officials opened fire on demonstrators protesting the February 1 coup.

The following day, thousands rallied in the town of Myawaddy, on the border of the Mae Sot district in the Thai province of Tak, while another protest was held in Tachilek. The Tachilek protest led to the border between Thailand and Myanmar being shut for 2 hours. It’s understood the largest rallies yet are being planned for today.

Meanwhile, Sompong has issued a warning that nobody fleeing the military crackdown in Myanmar will be granted entry to Thailand but will instead be turned away from the border. He says to do otherwise would pose too much of a health risk for Thailand, given the Covid-19 situation.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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