Af­ter cave or­deal, Thai boys now face bat­tle with fame

Gulf Times - - ASIA -

Af­ter their trau­matic or­deal deep in­side a dark and flooded moun­tain cave, Thai­land’s 12 res­cued boys and their young soc­cer coach will now have to nav­i­gate a fresh chal­lenge: Fame.

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

“The world is watch­ing,” said Kham-oey Promthep, 64, grand­mother of 13-year-old Duang­petch Promthep, or Dom, 13, 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?” Kham-oey said.

“We have noth­ing, so he must be a good boy.”

They al­ready face the pres­sure of ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

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 has 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 Dr An­drea Danese of the In­sti­tute of Psy­chi­a­try, Psy­chol­ogy and Neu­ro­science 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 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 Chanocha

“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?”

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 this week.

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 told Reuters that the ac­cu­sa­tion was “with­out sub­stance”.

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

For now, the fam­i­lies are fo­cused on the more im­me­di­ate re­lief of be­ing re­united with their loved ones.

“I don’t know how he will cope (with the at­ten­tion),” said Oui-pan Som­pi­eng­jai, 66, grand­mother of 16-year-old Pheer­aphat Som­pi­eng­jai.

“I’m just happy he got out of the cave”.

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