Out of the Caves

By Sudha Kumar

A successful end to a dangerous and perilous mission that gripped the world for more than two weeks.

The “Wild Boars” soccer team, comprising of boys aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped on June 23 while exploring the cave complex in the northern province.

An international team of rescuers alongside the Thai Navy seals rescued the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from deep inside a flooded cave on Tuesday of Chiang Rai when the monsoon downpour flooded the tunnels.

But there are number of things that made this more than just a ”˜successful rescue mission of a horrific accident’.

As the event unfolded and the world media watched and reported, it was refreshing to see that the media was kept at bay with just enough updates when required. And the media also complied with respect and dignity.

The little notes that the boys wrote to their parents, mostly about food, touched the hearts of millions across the globe. The coach who happens to be a monk helping the boys remain calm through meditation. The small things help put things into perspective. Every little bit mattered.

”˜Rescuers’ – the expert humans from UK, US, Australia, China were called to provide expertise or technology. India’s Kirloskar Brothers’ Limited provided the powerful pumps that helped in dewatering the caves. Foreign divers worked alongside Thai Navy Seals. An event that, albeit unfortunate, unified the country and the world, beyond the politics and economics. When asked about being conferred with a ”˜bravery award’ the British diver who helped responded with ”˜No, we are not heroes”¦’

What was also significant was the ”˜statelessness’ of some of the members of the team. The players Pornchai Kamluang, Ardoon Sam-on and Mongkhol Boonpiam, and their coach, Ekaphol Chantawong, whose families come from Thailand’s northern regions adjoining Myanmar’s Shan state. It is an area with many ethnic groups, is home to several armed ethnic armies. Vast areas of the state remain outside the central government’s control. Other areas are under the control of military groups such as the  Shan State Army. The prevalent unrest allows lawlessness to reign, and has little hope for a future. And so people try to send their children away, to anywhere, by any means. A porous border with Thailand is ”˜hope’.  A situation where ”˜migrating legally’ is impossible.    Such people without a Thai citizenship have Thai ID cards and so still have access to basic education and health care. A far cry from the ”˜first world’ health care systems.

As the boys recuperate from their ordeal with the best care, the Thai Governmnet considers their citizenship. It becomes very difficult to ignore what is happening in other parts of the world, specially in rich powerful countries, with people who flee oppressive hopeless lives. Where children are separated from parents and processes to ”˜send them back’ are legitimized.

At this time it would be remiss not to mention the loss of the former Thai diver Saman Gunan,  who lost consciousness on his way out of the flooded cave and died. His efforts will always be remembered.

The whole event has brought the world together. The age of the young boys, that human thirst for adventure in young minds, the rigour of training which was valued by the coach and his boys, that undying hope for a better life that drives us all, the coming together of experts across borders, the humility of the rescuers, the undying efforts of all who participated and the prayers of many. All of which make us human, and are beyond the geography, politics, economics, race or nationality which divide us.

It’s a big shout out for humanity.

“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” the Navy SEAL unit, which led the rescue, said on its Facebook page, adding all were safe.


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