Be a force for good, navy SEAL commander tells boys rescued from Thai cave

Be a force for good, navy SEAL commander tells boys rescued from Thai cave
4 Thai Navy Seals are seen after leaving the cave safe during the rescue mission, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand.
PHOTO: Reuters

BANGKOK/CHIANG RAI - The head of a Thai navy SEAL diving team that helped lead 12 boys and their football coach through a flooded cave complex to safety urged the boys on Thursday to "be a force for good" as the dramatic operation wound to a close.

The first footage of the boys, aged 11 to 16, convalescing in hospital in the northern city of Chiang Rai emerged on Wednesday, with some, wearing face masks and hospital gowns, giving peace signs for the camera.

Health officials said the boys would spend at least a week in hospital and around 30 days recovering at home following more than two weeks trapped inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.

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ปฏิบัติการที่โลกต้องจดจำ The operation the world never forgets. 18 วัน ที่ผู้คนทั้งโลกรวมใจมาอยู่ด้วยกัน...

Posted by Thai NavySEAL on Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Thirteen foreign divers and five Thai Navy SEALs guided boys and their coach out in a complicated three-day operation that ended on Tuesday.

"Make the most of your lives. Be good people, be a force for good for your country," Rear Admiral Apakorn Yuukongkaew, commander of Thailand's navy SEALS unit, said in a message to the boys before boarding a flight from Chiang Rai.

"Hooyah!" Apakorn shouted before flying out, using a morale-building navy term.

Footage released by the SEALs showed parts of the rescue operation that captivated the world.

The boys were held close to divers and remained motionless for parts of the journey where they had to dive. They were then carried on stretchers through dry parts to the cave's entrance.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said on Wednesday the operation was nothing short of a miracle.

Families of the 12 boys have been allowed to visit them. Some have been able to see the boys through a glass panel, others have been allowed closer, but had to wear protective suits and stand two meters away.

The Tham Luang cave complex will remain closed to the public for at least six months, said Chongklai Worapongsathorn, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Thai cave rescue: Boys share details of their traumatic experience

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    During a national TV broadcast they smiled, joked and showed solidarity with one another, as they shared details of their traumatic experience inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex.

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    During their TV news conference, the boys said when they entered the cave on June 23 they had planned to only be inside the cave for about an hour after football practice.

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    But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.

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    The boys had no food and survived only on water. They took turns digging at the cave walls, hoping to find a way out.

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    "This experience made me stronger and taught me not to give up," said the team's youngest member, who goes by the name Titan.

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    The boys will eventually spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the dead diver's memory, their coach said on Wednesday.

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    The Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on Saturday released a video clip on its Facebook page showing the 12 Mu Pa (Wild Boar) Academy footballers and their coach thanking everyone for their concern and help in rescuing them. Chanin Wibulrungruang (Titan), 11, said his condition was returning to normal and he would like to eat sushi. He thanked the Navy SEALs for rescuing him and thanked everyone for all the moral support.

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    They also conveyed that they were in good health and looked forward to tasting their favourite foods. The 12 youths and the coach were seen in a row of beds in the three-minute clip.

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    Pipat Phothi (Nik), 15, said he felt in good health. He said he would like to eat rice with crisp fried pork, and rice with stew red pork. He thanked the rescuers and everyone for the moral support.

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    Piraphat Sompiangchai (Night), 16, said he felt in good health and he would like to eat pork pan chabu very much. He thanked everyone for all the moral support.

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    Adul Sam-on (Dul), 14, said his condition had improved and he would like to go to a KFC shop. He said he was now killing time by drawing pictures of his friends and Coach Ek in the cave.

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    He also said in English: “I’m Adul. I’m very fine. Thank you for helping us. Thank you very much.”

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    Ekkapol Chanthawong, 25, or Coach Ek, said he his condition was improving and he now felt strong. He would like to eat fried rice with crisp pork. He said he would like to thank all the people and all the ministries and Navy SEALs as well as the doctors for helping the team.

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    Pornchai Khamluang (Tee), 16, said he would like to eat fried rice with crisp pork and would like to thank everyone for all the moral support.

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    Sompong Jaiwong (Pong), 13, said he was strong now. He would like to eat curry basil rice with fried egg. He thanked everyone for all the moral support and thanked the international community for helping the team. “Thank you,” he said in English.

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    Mongkol Boonpiam (Mark), 13, said he was now strong and could even run. He would like to eat a piece of steak. He thanked everyone for all the moral support and promised to fight on

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    This handout video grab taken from footage released by The Thai government public relations department (PRD) and Government spokesman bureau on July 11, 2018 shows members of the "Wild Boars" football team being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai.

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    The 12 boys rescued from a Thai cave were passed "sleeping" on stretchers through the treacherous passageways, a former Thai Navy SEAL told AFP on July 11, giving the first clear details of an astonishing rescue mission that has captivated the world.

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    Doctors have said they are in good physical and mental health -- a view backed up by the footage made available by the Thai government showing them behind quarantine glass in bed wearing smocks and facemasks, flashing peace signs and doing the traditional "wai" greeting.

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    They do not look shell-shocked or stunned despite a potentially harrowing 18 days inside a dank, dark cave followed by a risky rescue operation that was dubbed "Mission Impossible".

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    A screen grab shows people looking through glass at the boys

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