BANGKOK – The 12 boys and their soccer coach who spent more than two weeks trapped in a cave in Thailand have turned into social media stars after their rescue, which completes a month on Friday.
The boys, following the miraculous rescue operation which is set to be made into a movie and the theme of a museum, have resumed their daily life gradually, but with a major difference: an increased number of followers on Facebook and Instagram.
“Thank you to everyone in the world,” Ekapol “Ake” Chanthawong, the coach of the boys’ Wild Boars soccer team, wrote to his 150,000 Facebook followers Wednesday.
“Let’s go to school,” wrote Adul Sam-On, 14 on his Instagram profile, where he received 40,000 likes on a picture in which he appears alongside some of his team-mates.
Ake and Adul, along with two other boys were also granted citizenship on Wednesday, which would ensure their access to basic rights and services in the country.
“I might not be able to upload photos for a while because I have homework to do,” wrote Duangphet Promthep, 13, to his 314,000 Instagram followers.
Teachers and schoolmates of the boys welcomed the 12 Monday in an event where they were given new uniforms, books and stationery and football jerseys of the German team Bayern Munich.
Education authorities have designed a special study plan to enable the boys to catch up with the rest of their class for the time they were trapped in the cave.
Ake, 26, and the 12 boys, between 11 and 16 years of age, had entered the Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai on June 23 during an excursion after a soccer training session.
They were trapped inside after the cave’s passage was flooded by water due to a sudden rainstorm.
After nine days, an expedition led by two British divers located the group four kilometers (2.5 miles) into the entrance.
The coach and the 12 boys were found to be physically weak and tired due to a lack of food as they only had access to water during the time they were trapped inside the cave.
The rescue team drew out a plan that would first allow the boys to recover their strength while they studied ways to evacuate them out of the cave before fresh rains could inundate the cave again as Thailand was in its monsoon season.
Sedated, accompanied by two divers during the evacuation process and carried on a stretcher through the tunnel, they were taken out in phases: four on July 8, another four on July 9 and the remaining on July 10.
“We made the impossible possible,” Narongsak Ossottanakorn, spokesperson for the rescue mission had told the media after the rescue.
Thai authorities earlier this month also began constructing a museum dedicated to the mission that included more than 1,300 people, and which is expected to be open to public by the end of this year.
The museum will be built outside the cave and would display paintings, photos, clothes and equipments used by the rescue team and a statue of Kunan.
A Ministry of Culture representative told EFE that the authorities were also trying to form a committee to analyze different projects presented by several production houses to produce a series of movies and documentaries on the rescue mission.