Thai cave boys to return to ‘normal life’ after meeting media

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    A screen grab shows boys rescued from the Thai cave wearing mask and resting in a hospital in Chiang RaiImage copyright Reuters
    Image caption The boys are due to return to their normal lives

    Twelve boys and their football coach who were rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand have left hospital in preparation for returning home.

    They had been in the Chiang Rai clinic since last week, when they were pulled from the Tham Luang cave complex in a three-day operation.

    The group will make their first public appearance at a news conference and answer questions about their ordeal.

    After that they will go back to their homes and families, officials say.

    “The reason to hold this evening press conference is so media can ask them questions and after that they can go back to live their normal lives without media bothering them,” Thailand’s chief government spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd told news agency AFP.

    Chiang Rai’s provincial governor Prachon Pratsukan added that it would be their “only official media interview”, saying that there would “be no more speaking with the press after this”.

    Questions submitted by journalists were vetted ahead of time, and have been screened by a child psychiatrist to ensure they don’t distress the boys.

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    Media captionThai cave rescue: Saying sorry to cave spirit Nang Norn

    The press conference is due to begin at around 18:00 local time (11:00 GMT).

    There are also plans for the boys to be ordained as Buddhist monks for a short period of time, a tradition for males in Thailand who have experienced a misfortune.

    How did the boys get trapped in the cave?

    The boys first entered the Tham Luang cave in the northern district of Chiang Rai on 23 June during an excursion with their coach.

    They had planned to be there for only an hour, but found themselves trapped after a sudden bout of heavy rain flooded the cave complex, blocking their only way out.

    Their parents soon informed officials they were missing, and a search and rescue operation began.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption The boys survived on water dripping from the cave

    Nine days passed before the boys were found by two British rescue divers.

    But elation quickly turned to concern as it became clear just how difficult it would be to rescue boys who could not swim and had been weakened by their time underground with little food or light.

    The dangers of the journey was underscored by the death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver, Saman Gunan, who died while taking oxygen tanks into the cave complex.

    How did they get out?

    A team of expert divers guided the boys and their coach through darkness and submerged passageways towards the mouth of the cave system.

    Each boy was accompanied by two divers, who also carried his air supply. The boys wore full-face masks, which are easier for novice divers than traditional respirators.

    Sources in the rescue operation, including divers who took part, told the BBC that the boys were heavily sedated ahead of the rescue to prevent them panicking in the dark, tight, underwater passageways.

    Getting to and from the trapped group was an exhausting round trip, even for experienced divers. The process involved a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes.

    The boys were rescued in stages – with four boys coming out on Sunday, another four on Monday and the final four plus their coach on Tuesday.

    Image copyright AFP/Royal Thai Navy

    All 13 were transferred to a hospital in Chiang Rai where they have received medical and psychological assistance. They are all said to be recovering well.

    However, they will be watched for signs of psychological distress, which may only become evident in the months to come.

    The boys have been advised against giving media interviews, which experts say could trigger a post-traumatic reaction.

    Who are the boys and their coach?

    Captain Duganpet Promtep, 13, is described as a motivator and highly respected by his teammates. He had apparently been scouted by several Thai professional clubs.

    Myanmar-born Adul Sam-on, 14, speaks several languages, and was the only team member to be able to communicate with British divers when they were first discovered.

    It was 17-year-old Peerapat Sompiangjai‘s birthday when the group became trapped in the cave. The snacks the boys brought with them to celebrate are likely to have helped them survive their ordeal.

    Assistant coach Ekapol Chantawong, 25, was said to be the weakest of the group when they were found, as he had reportedly refused to eat any of the food and gave it instead to the boys.

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