Thai cave rescue: Police investigating illegal drone use, broadcast of police radio frequency by media

Members of the media at a press centre as rescue operations continue to save 12 boys and their football coach trapped at the Tham Luang cave, on July 8, 2018.
Members of the media at a press centre as rescue operations continue to save 12 boys and their football coach trapped at the Tham Luang cave, on July 8, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

CHIANG RAI (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thai police is investigating the illegal use of drone by a Thai TV station and the unauthorised broadcast of a police radio frequency by another media outlet in their coverage of a massive rescue operation to get trapped footballers out of a flooded cave.

A news outlet was found flying a drone without permission and another outlet reportedly got access to the police radio frequency and broadcast it, said Mr Narongsak Osottanakorn at a press briefing on Monday (July 9).

Without naming the news outlets, he said that both outlets have clearly violated the laws and police is investigating both incidents.

"We understand that flying a drone in the area without permission is clearly illegal. A news outlet still flew the drone despite our asking for their cooperation."

The mission chief said he was very upset by such behaviour but stressed that it was the actions of individual outlets, not all media.

Hundreds of media representatives from Thailand and around the world have gathered in Chiang Rai province near the Thai border with Myanmar to cover blow-by-blow the rescue mission of 13 footballers who went missing on June 23.

Eight of them have been freed since Sunday (July 8) and five remain trapped inside Tham Luang cave as of Tuesday morning.

Regional deputy commander Chairat Panngao said the drone in question flew at the same time a helicopter was airlifting one of the rescued footballers to hospital.

"That was not appropriate. Even if they had the permission, it did not mean they could fly where ever they wanted," he said.

The Thai Air Force said that the flyer of the drone in question did not have a licence.


A TV station, PPTV station, has issued an apology for flying the drone .

The station's editorial department said it had no intention to violate regulations that have been issued regarding coverage of the rescue operation. It has acknowledged its mistake and apologised if its action had impacted the operation in any way.

The department also stressed that there would be no more such incidents.

Mr Narongsak added that another news outlet had got illegal access to police's frequency, listened it and broadcast it live.

Their report, based on illegal access, mentioned that six of the young footballers were evacuated on Sunday despite the fact that only four were saved by a team of elite divers on that day. Four others were rescued on Monday.

"We have to repeatedly answer the public's queries about the exact number of boys extracted from the cave," Mr Narongsak said.

"Police are now investigating the incident and searching for those involved in the action," he said.

Major-General Chairat said that a special technique was used to access the police radio frequency.

"This will be my last request to everybody not to do it. What we are doing now is for the sake of the Mu Pa team members," he said, referring to the Thai name of the school football team.

Twelves boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach entered the cave on June 23 after a routine soccer practice and were trapped deep inside the cave by flash floods.

Major-General Chairat urged the media outlets to stop competing to get better photos and reports, but use news and photos provided by the rescue authorities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2018, with the headline ''. Print Edition | Subscribe