Thai boys face new ordeal — bat­tling with fame

■ Two Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies vy­ing to film their story

Irish Examiner - - News - James Pear­son

Af­ter their trau­matic ordeal deep in­side a dark and flooded moun­tain cave, 12 Thai youths and their soc­cer coach will now have to nav­i­gate fame.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, will spend at least a week in hos­pi­tal an damon that home, health of­fi­cials said, fol­low­ing a dar­ing rescue from the Tham Luang cave com­plex, in the north­ern prov­ince of Chi­ang Rai.

“The world is watch­ing,” said Kham-oey Promthep, 64, grand­mother of 13-year-old Duang­petch Promthep, or Dom, cap­tain of the Wild Boars soc­cer team.

“He was trapped in a cave and ev­ery­one in the coun­try, and from around the world, had to come and help him. What do we have to give them in re­turn? We have noth­ing, so he must be a good boy.”

They al­ready face the pres­sure of ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions about how they should live.

The head of the Thai Navy Seal div­ing team in­volved in their rescue urged the boys to make the most of their lives and“be a force for good”.

Global at­ten­tion on their fate and the multi­na­tional rescue have put the area firmly on the map, with plans for a mu­seum to show­case the rescue.

De­spite the height­ened in­ter­est and pres­sure, the boys need to live as nor­mally as pos­si­ble, said An­drea Danese of the In­sti­tute of Psy­chi­a­try, Psy­chol­ogy, and Ne uro sci­ence at King’s Col­lege in Lon­don.

“The boys need to go back to their nor­mal life, to their daily rou­tines, in or­der to fully ap­pre­ci­ate that the threat is over,” said Dr Danese, who heads the in­sti­tute’s stress and de­vel­op­ment lab­o­ra­tory.

His re­search sug­gested up to 20% of the boys may de­velop longer-term psy­chi­atric dis­or­ders, such as de­pres­sion, anxiety, and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Prime min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha has asked that the boys be given time and per­sonal space to re­cover.

“The best way is not to bother them and let them study,” he told re­porters.

Thai au­thor­i­ties have pre­vented the world’s me­dia, camped in cafes and at street cor­ners out­side the hos­pi­tal, in Chi­ang Rai, from in­ter­view­ing the boys, and with good rea­son, Danese said.

“In­tense me­dia scru­tiny might act as a re­minder of their trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence and pre­vent them from set­tling back to nor­mal life,” he said.

The story is al­ready set for a retelling by Hol­ly­wood, with two pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies look­ing to put to­gether movies about the boys and their dar­ing rescue.

It was a sim­i­lar case eight years ago, when 33 gold min­ers spent 69 days trapped un­der­ground at the San Jose mine in north­ern Chile.

One of the min­ers, Jorge Gal­leguil­los, said the par­ents of the cave boys should en­sure they have no un­ac­com­pa­nied con­tact with lawyers or jour­nal­ists.

A movie star­ring Antonio Ban­deras, called The 33, was pro­duced in con­sul­ta­tion with the min­ers, who are tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against their own lawyers, fol­low­ing a dispute over the prof­its from the film.

Two of the ac­cused lawyers said that the ac­cu­sa­tion was “with­out sub­stance”.

“A lot of para sites will want them to sign the rights to books, to films,” said Mr Gal­leguil­los. “It’s dan­ger­ous, af­ter ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pened, that you be­come a global celebrity and ev­ery­one wants some­thing from you”.

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