The youngsters and their football coach spoke for the first time about their ordeal as they appeared at a televised news conference in Chiang Rai.
Other participants included rescue operation head, Narongsak Osotthanakorn, who is now the governor of Phayao province and former Chiang Rai governor, incumbent Chiang Rai governor Prajon Pratsakul as well as Thai and Myanmar residents.
Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said doctors and psychologists were participating in the news conference to filter questions and ensure the boys’ well-being. Here, photos from their press conference in Chiang Rai.
When they were eventually found, one of the holes was five-metres deep. If they do follow this route, the boys will become novices until they turn 20, when they can be ordained as monks.
As they went farther and farther in, they used a guide rope, pulling on it twice when those at the front of the group realized they could not continue.
“Some asked if we were lost”. He said, “I was afraid”. Attempts to dig their way out led nowhere, and the water level showed no signs of lowering. “We ate together, and we slept together”.
However, the water continued to rise. “We weren’t scared at that time”. To pass the time, the boys played chess with the SEALs, who provided high-protein rations to restore some of their strength.
The team had no food with them, and “drank water that fell from the rocks”, according to one of the team members, 16-year-old Pornchai Kamluang.
The youngest member of the team, 11-year-old Titan, said thanks to Saman Kunan. We tried to calm down. “We didn’t want to wait around until authorities found us”.
“Quickly, go down to have a look, otherwise they might go past us”, he said.
Ake also denied reports that some of the boys were unable to swim their way to freedom.
A crowd of media and onlookers was penned behind barricades as the boys arrived in vans from the hospital where they had stayed since last week’s global effort to extricate them from a flooded cave complex in which they had been trapped. We heard some people talking.
The group’s coach, 25-year-old Ekkapol Chanthawong, also known as Ake, told the group to stay quiet. “I did not think they were British”. They asked how are you?
“I took the flashlight from him and went down right away”, Adul said.
While numerous boys wanted to be pro soccer players when they grow up, at least four of them said they hope to become navy SEALs, so they could help others.
“I’m very happy”, he said. “Then he said, ‘Brilliant'”.
Adul said that having already spent nine days in the cave, “maths and language didn’t work in my brain any more”.
The group was freed from the cave eight days ago after a dramatic rescue effort that left one Thai Navy SEAL dead after he ran out of oxygen trying to dive out of the flooded cave.
“We felt guilty, because of his death”, the coach said, before some of his players read out messages of condolences they’d written for the diver’s family.
The boys were only told of Saman Gunan’s sacrifice on Saturday, when it was determined that they were strong enough to take the news.
“They were like my brothers, like my family”, Coach Ek said of the SEALs.
“We don’t know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts”, justice ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew told reporters, as he cautioned that the overwhelming media attention and “hard questions” could affect the boys’ mental health.
After eight days in quarantine, the Wild Boars were released from hospital on Wednesday for the media conference that aired live around the world.
The boys are due to return to their homes later Wednesday.
Doctors said the 13 were healthy in body and mind.