Rescued Thai cave boys recount ordeal in first public appearance

Charlene Craig
July 19, 2018

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

It had been previously reported Australian doctor-diver Richard Harris had helped decide which boys to take out first, reportedly the weakest or the bravest of the boys.

Some Thai television personalities joked that the boys will help ratings of the otherwise boring television show, which is usually reserved for monotonous conversations about the military government's performance. A video was also shown of them thanking hospital staff.

Asked why they had gone into the cave, Mr Ekkapol, 25, said: "I was not the one who invited them into the cave".

"For me, Thai Navy SEALs are like our fathers and we're their sons", said 13-year-old Panumas Saengdee to the applause of the crowd. He said, "I was afraid".

One of the boys, Adul Sam-on, described the moment when two British cave divers found the group on July 2. He heard noises and implored his teammates to be quiet, he said, to determine whether he was dreaming or if people had actually found them.

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Mr Ekkapol said the choice of who would go first in the three-day rescue was not based on health but on who volunteered.

Earlier reports that boys could not swim were said to be incorrect.

After realizing they were trapped, Ekapol said the group tried to get out of the cave through the same route they came in but failed due to the high water, as many sections of the kilometers-long cave had become flooded by the monsoon rains.

One boy said he thought of his mother, another said he anxious about homework. So he took the boys deeper into the cave, assuming that if they waited until the morning the water level would drop enough to make it safe for them to cross.

He said, "The ones whose homes are the furthest went first, so they could tell everyone that the boys were fine". "On the first day we were OK, but after two days we started feeling exhausted". "We kept drinking water to fill our belly". Upon finding a ledge on which they could perch, he then instructed the 12 boys to start digging in search of a potential exit.More Stories From FOTO Linh Pham/Getty ImagesSURVIVAL MODEThe team started to feel weak after two days stuck in the cave, but discovered a trickle of fresh water that helped sustain them.

The boys' friends gathered to greet them on the set for the broadcast, created to resemble a football field, complete with goalposts, nets and scattered with black-and-white footballs, while benches stood on a dais for the boys to sit on.

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The boys also apologized to their parents for not telling them they were going into the cave. They presented a framed drawing of Mr Saman Gunan with handwritten messages.

They sent their condolences to Kunan's family, while one boy said, "I want to say thank you". "I will be more careful next time", he said.

They said their dream of being professional footballers had not changed, and that the experience had made them stronger and given them more endurance and tolerance.

The coach revealed that the group all played chequers to pass the time - but they lost to a Navy SEAL who they nicknamed the "king of the cave".

"We don't know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts", said Justice Ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew, who asked for the boys' privacy to be respected after their discharge.

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