Rescued boys take to stage as Thai cave story moves to…

The 12 rescued Thai footballers and their 25-year old coach have shared the drama of being trapped for almost three weeks in a flooded cave during a public exhibition in one of Bangkok’s largest malls.

The exhibition at the Siam Paragon mall features the young members of the Wild Boars football team and also shows a reproduction of the cave in the north of the country, complete with the simulated sounds of water dripping. Equipment used by rescuers and other memorabilia are also on display.

Psychologists had counselled that the 12 boys, who were rescued in July, should be given a six-month respite from being pressed to recount their experience for the sake of their mental health.

However, Thailand’s military government, eager to share the glory of the good-news story, has trotted them out for public appearances and interviews.

Other efforts to promote their story have included construction of a museum and the anointing of a former Thai navy SEAL who died while delivering oxygen tanks in the cave as a national hero.

One exception to the feel-good vibe has been an ongoing feud between American tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and British caving expert Vernon Unsworth, whose advice and experience were considered crucial to the rescue operation.

Mr Unsworth had criticised a well-publicised effort by Mr Musk to lend a custom-built mini-submarine to the rescue effort as “showboating”. Mr Musk responded on Twitter with comments strongly implying that the Briton was a paedophile.

The matter was revived last week, when Mr Musk – when asked about the threat of libel action – continued with his accusations. Mr Musk has provided no evidence for his allegations.

The tech baron, whose seemingly erratic behaviour on other matters have drawn concern from investors, has also told BuzzFeed that he hopes Mr Unsworth sues him.

For the boys, mostly teenagers, the Musk controversy is not even a sideshow. They are being carefully guided by a Thai government committee set up to control who has access to the boys as they draw attention from filmmakers and the media.

At least five of the boys at the event said in more or less the same words that “my life is the same, but more people are approaching me”.

The boys have already detailed much of their adventure in a news conference after they were released from hospital, and in interviews with the US television network ABC.

In a panel discussion moderated by Mr Weerachon in the Siam Paragon mall, they gave mostly brief replies.

Adul Sam-on admitted that the area they were staying in the cave stank of urine — the matter of body excretions having been the subject of much speculation on social media.

The boys appeared unaware of the government’s advice to avoid talking about their ordeal.

Adul said he was surprised when he met officials such as American diplomats, but was not asked about what happened in the cave. He said someone later told him that there was a ban on people asking them questions about it.

The boys and their coach are scheduled to attend a government event dubbed “United as One”, a celebration involving everyone involved in the rescue operation at an outdoor field in Bangkok.

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