Thai­land’s res­cued cave boys end stay at Bud­dhist tem­ple

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Nation & World -

MAE SAI, Thai­land — With their heads bowed and wear­ing or­ange robes, the mem­bers of the boys’ soc­cer team res­cued from al­most three weeks trapped in a cave in north­ern Thai­land on Satur­day com­pleted their time as novice Bud­dhist monks.

About 300 peo­ple gath­ered for the cer­e­mony that saw the boys leave tem­ple life to re­turn to their fam­i­lies. Those pre­sent gave alms — flow­ers, food, money — as a ges­ture of their re­li­gious de­vo­tion.

The July 25 or­di­na­tion of

11 boys with the 25-yearold coach was dedicated to a for­mer Thai navy SEAL, Sa­man Gu­nan, who died while div­ing dur­ing a vol­un­teer mis­sion to sup­ply the cave with oxy­gen tanks es­sen­tial to a res­cue. A 12th boy did not go through the re­li­gious rit­ual be­cause he isn’t Bud­dhist.

At the tem­ple near Thai­land’s bor­der with Myan­mar, the boys and their coach sat bare­footed in a large pav­il­ion in their or­ange robes. The adults sit­ting be­hind them wore white.

With heads bowed, they prayed, fid­geted and oc­ca­sion­ally yawned as monks chanted sa­cred texts. They then placed new monks’ robes on a ta­ble in front of a large photo of Sa­man.

They later changed into white shirts and blue pants. Coach Ekapol “Ake” Chan­tha­wong re­mained in his Bud­dhist robe, as he has com­mit­ted to an ex­tended pe­riod in the monk­hood.

Al­though they will be giv­ing up their Bud­dhist robes, it is likely that the boys will re­tain some of the soli­tude of tem­ple life, as the govern­ment has dis­cour­aged for the time be­ing any in­ter­views with them.

The boys and their coach en­tered the cave June 23 for a brief trek, but flood­ing blocked the exit. Two Bri­tish divers found the group July 2. The group was ex­tri­cated in an in­tri­cate op­er­a­tion over three days be­gin­ning July 8.

LIL­LIAN SUWANRUMPHA/GETTY-AFP

Mem­bers of the Wild Boars soc­cer team mark the end of their re­treat as novice Bud­dhist monks Satur­day at a tem­ple in Chi­ang Rai province. The team’s coach ex­tended his visit.

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