The Irrawaddy

Thai Leader Tries to Comfort Families of Missing Soccer Players

Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha this morning assured families of the 12 young soccer players and their coach that they will all survive the ordeal as the mission to rescue them from inside the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai Province’s Mae Sai District entered its sixth day.

Noting that the children and teenagers were soccer players, he said they should be physically fit to cope with the hardships they were enduring.

“You need to have confidence in your children’s physical fitness and the ability of the rescue teams to help them out,” Gen Prayuth told families who gathered to meet him at the rescue command center. Most of the families have been camping just outside the Tham Luang cave since the rescue mission was launched on Sunday. The soccer team went missing on Saturday.

The prime minister arrived at Tham Luang-Khunnam Nangnon National Park this morning as rescue teams frantically continued to find ways to reach into a chamber of the cave where the children are believed to be taking refuge. Their efforts have been hampered by rough terrains and continuous heavy rains.

Gen Prayuth was briefed on the current state of the rescue operation before he proceeded to comfort relatives hoping for good news about their missing children and loved ones.

Gen Prayuth said he felt “mentally tortured” by the ordeal the children and their families were going through. “I feel as if they were my own children,” he said.

There was one light moment when some of the family members mentioned the possibility of the children being stranded in an area known as “Pattaya Beach” inside the cave. “Let’s do this. If they all come out safe and sound, we will take them to visit Pattaya Beach,” the prime minister said, referring to the famous beach, drawing some smiles from the otherwise emotion-stricken villagers.

Gen Prayuth later demonstrated how the families should learn to do meditation to relieve their tensions, drawing laughter and rounds of applause from them.

The prime minister also took the opportunity to thank foreign experts and rescue teams who have arrived to help with Thai authorities’ rescue operation.