Thailand’s rescued cave boys end stay at Buddhist temple
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.
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.