Thai Cave Boys Make First Public Appearance

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CHIANG RAI, THAILAND |

12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded Thai cave complex described how they survived on nothing but dripping water, and even tried to dig their way out.

 

The Wild Boars team were making their first public appearance after the long ordeal, waving, smiling and offering Thai traditional “wai” greetings on a national TV broadcast.

One of the boys, 14–year–old Adul Sam–on recalled the moment when two British divers found the trapped group on July 2, squatting in a flooded chamber several kilometres within the cave complex.

“It was magical,” he said. “I had to think a lot before I could answer their questions,” added Adul, who speaks English. “Everybody was happy, it was the most hopeful moment in 10 days.”

A crowd of media and onlookers were penned behind barricades as the boys arrived in vans from the hospital where they had stayed since their rescue from the complex in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai.

 

“We only drank water,” said one of the boys, nicknamed Tee. “On the first day we were OK, but after two days we started feeling tired.” The team’s youngest member, who goes by the name Titan, added: “I had no strength. I tried not to think about food so I didn’t get more hungry

 

WE ONLY DRANK WATER

The group, who had eaten before going into the caves, took no food on an excursion that was supposed to last only an hour, and had to subsist on water dripping from stalactites, he said.

“We only drank water,” said one of the boys, nicknamed Tee. “On the first day we were OK, but after two days we started feeling tired.”

The team’s youngest member, who goes by the name Titan, added: “I had no strength. I tried not to think about food so I didn’t get more hungry.”

Thoughts of their parents also preoccupied the boys, with one admitting, “I was afraid. That I wouldn’t go home and I would get scolded by my mother.”

An honour guard hold up a picture of Samarn Kunan (38), a former member of Thailand’s elite navy Seal unit. ©Reuters

REGULAR LIVES

The operation to extract the team involved a core team of 18, including 13 foreign divers. The boys, fitted with thick wetsuits and full–face scuba masks, were guided through dark, flooded passageways toward the mouth of the cave.

The first part of the journey involved some diving. For the last part, the boys were put in green plastic toboggans and carried through.

The rescue effort drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists.

Officials have asked that the boys’ privacy be respected once they are home. “We want the boys to have regular lives and go back to school and — to have time with families and activities they like,” said psychologist Patchaneewan Inta.

The moment was bittersweet, as two of the boys held up a framed pencil sketch of Samarn Kunan, 38, a former Thai navy diver who died while he worked underwater, laying oxygen tanks along a potential exit route.

 

The moment was bittersweet, as two of the boys held up a framed pencil sketch of Samarn Kunan, 38, a former Thai navy diver who died while he worked underwater, laying oxygen tanks along a potential exit route. “Everyone was very sad,” said Ekkapol, adding that the boys would spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the diver’s memory

 

“Everyone was very sad,” said Ekkapol, adding that the boys would spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the diver’s memory.

Hugs and tears greeted many of the boys when they made their way home. In Mae Sai district, where the cave is located, relatives hugged Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, before blessing him with water as he entered his home.

The scene was repeated across other homes.

Earlier on the televised show many of the boys said that they would not set foot inside the cave again. ■

Video credit — Reuters

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