When 12 young students and their football coach went missing in Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Rai amid the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system, many expected the worst. But the Thai government, its military, volunteers both in Thailand and from abroad spent 9 days until they were located alive in cave chamber isolated by rising waters.
The rescue efforts are still ongoing. Difficult decisions remain to be made. The trip to and from the location of the students and their coach requires scuba diving. To bring the stranded students out of the cave requires either to somehow drain the water trapping them, or train them to make the dive out of the cave.
Water being pumped out of the cave system has been distributed to the land of local farmers – many of whom eagerly volunteered to have water diverted to their property to aid in whatever way they could to the rescue efforts. The government is nonetheless compensating the farmers for the damage they incur.
The government has mobilized its resources as well as those offered by other nations. It is using newly acquired Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters to access sites around the cave. The US has offered technology in efforts to locate possible exits from the cave, and it was a team of private British divers who were with Thai Navy SEALs when the students were finally found 9 days after they went missing. Other divers and cavers from all over Asia and beyond have also come to over their expertise.
The rescue efforts are not without danger. One Thai Navy SEAL has already died while making the trip to and from the trapped students.
This highlights the risks of at least one of the proposed rescue options – training the students and their coach to scuba dive out of the cave. Rescuers have urged patience, stating that it may be weeks or even months before the students can be brought to safety.
The Bad and the Ugly
The media – both local and foreign – have expressed mostly positive support for the rescue efforts – playing a positive role in informing the public and soliciting volunteers and donations of various supplies and skill sets when needed. The larger constructive media coverage is, the more resources that have been marshaled from near and far to assist.
However, there have been some who have used the incident for publicity. Many pro-Western media organizations in Thailand, supported by the US, UK and EU government and opposed to the current Thai government, have used the incident to attack and undermine the Thai government at every opportunity.
Anti-government Khaosod even resorted to blatantly false headlines to smear the government and the Thai police by claiming the coach was already facing charges. In the body of the article under the “clickbait” headline, “Coach Faces Charges For Leading Boys into Cave,” police were directly quoted as having not even considered the possibility of charges – since all attention was focused on rescuing the students.
Others, like Hathai Techakitteranun, a Thai writer for German-based Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) has taken every opportunity to portray the Thai government as bumbling and incompetent, using the desperate rescue efforts to advance her and her foreign sponsors’ political agenda at the cost of national unity in the face of coordinated rescue efforts.
And Khaosod writer Pravit Rojanaphruk, recipient of multiple US-UK awards and fellowships, and a prominent supporter of US-backed political agitators in Bangkok, attempted to hook up US-backed regime change to the rescue efforts, claiming (translated from Thai) that while it was difficult to find the students in the cave, finding “democracy” for Thailand would be even harder.
Thai-based French “political cartoonist” Stephane “Stephff” Peray would parrot Pravit R.’s sentiments in search of clicks and attention to his otherwise ignored and often obscure “work.”
Attempts to undermine the Thai government amid a difficult rescue effort coordinating local government and private contributions as well as those from around the globe is unthinkably reprehensible.
Placing pressure on the government to produce results, only serves to impair the judgement of those leading rescue efforts, and placing in danger the lives of not only the students, but of the many volunteers working day and night to bring them out of the cave safely.
It is difficult to understand what takes place in the mind of individuals who would seek to leverage tragedy to advance their own personal agenda. Not only do they serve as a disturbing and negative contrast to the very best exhibited by those who came from across Thailand and from abroad to help, but they are also compromising the rescue efforts directly.
Their self-serving and dangerous exploitation of such events is a reminder of how dangerous they are, and no matter what labels they hide behind – be it “journalism” or “democracy” – that for every selfless, courageous individual offering technical expertise to save lives, there are selfish self-absorbed egomaniacs seeking to latch on to the deeds of others to elevate themselves from the depths of obscurity and irrelevance their own personal shortcoming keep them in.
Let the Thailand cave rescue provide us with first and foremost an example of how the very best of humanity – regardless of nationality or political proclivities – can come together to move us collectively forward.
When presented with a life and death situation, it appears many people are able to put aside their petty differences and contribute selflessly toward a positive outcome.
Let it also be an example and a warning of the need to protect ourselves against spiteful individuals and interests seeking to not only hijack noble efforts to save lives, but derail them for personal and political gain.
The rescue effort is an example of the best of humanity, and the worst of humanity. Let it also be an opportunity for us all to look inward and see which side of the line we fall on, and what we need to do to ensure we strive to follow and fulfill the best humanity has to offer.