Thai boys rescued from cave to be ordained in Buddhist ceremony

Members of the Wild Boars football team who were rescued from the cave bowing before novice Buddhist monks during a religious ceremony in Chiang Rai on July 19, 2018.
Members of the Wild Boars football team who were rescued from the cave bowing before novice Buddhist monks during a religious ceremony in Chiang Rai on July 19, 2018.PHOTO: AFP/THAI NEWS

MAE SAI, THAILAND (AFP) - Most members of the Thai youth football team rescued from a flooded cave will have their heads shaved, don robes and be ordained in a Buddhist ceremony this week, officials said on Sunday (July 22).

The "Wild Boars" are enjoying their first few days home after being discharged from hospital and speaking to the media about their harrowing ordeal inside the Tham Luang cave near the Myanmar border.

The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach went into the cave complex on June 23 after practice and were trapped by floods from monsoon rains.

They survived on water dripping from rocks for nine days before being found emaciated on a muddy ledge by rescue divers, who helped extract the team a week later in a risky mission.

All made a speedy and surprising recovery after a week in hospital, and on their first day out, they prayed for good fortune in a traditional ceremony and mourned a former Thai navy Seal who died during the rescue efforts.

Now they will go a step further and spend time living in a monastery before returning to normal life, a common practice in Buddhist-majority countries like Thailand.

"They will ordain for nine days," Mr Prachon Pratsakul, the Chaing Rai governor, told reporters in a briefing at the Mae Sai district office.

"There will be about 11 boys ordained as novices and one ordained as a monk which is Coach Ek," he said, referring to Mr Ekkapol Chantawong, who has already been in the monkhood and was said to have helped keep the boys calm inside the cave.

Mr Praphun Khomjoi, Chiang Rai's Buddhist office chief, said that the "Wild Boars" will have their heads shaved on July 24 and attend a robe ceremony the next day.

They will then stay in different monasteries until leaving on Aug 4.

One of the children, Adul Sam-on, will not join them as he is Christian, the governor said.

Authorities have told media to give the teammates time to adjust to their lives, but interest in the story remains high, with production houses looking to make a Hollywood-style film on the saga.

The story is readymade for the screen, with a bold rescue operation that entailed sedating and moving the boys out of the cave through treacherous passageways.