The rescued Mu Pa Academy football footballers and their assistant coach are aware of and have expressed their gratitude to those who made sacrifices to rescue them from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, says an Army doctor who played a leading role in helping the boys.
“I’m confident that the Mu Pa boys will grow up to be excellent citizens of the country and work for the benefits of the country’s future and reputation,” wrote Dr Pak Loharnchun in a Facebook post.
Pak praised assistant coach Ekkapol Chantawong for having "a good heart" and having made sacrifices to help and comfort the boys during their entrapment.
The doctor, who has multiple certifications including for SEAL operations, joined the footballers in the cave after they were discovered by British divers on July 2, and remained with them until the last of them were extracted on July 10.
Pak says the innocence and optimism of the boys impressed him, as did their remaining in high spirits during the time of crisis.
“I was told that after they were trapped inside the cave … every day they used pieces of rock to dig to find a way out despite having no food. The hole they dug was quite deep, about five metres.”
They were also disciplined, collecting their rubbish and placing it in a black bag, he wrote.
They also listened to Ekkapol and followed his instructions, the doctor wrote. He told them not to pick up things or remove anything from the cave.
Ekkapol, 25, was the eldest of those rescued, with the rest aged 11 to 16.
“I secretly noticed since day one that the coach would make sure that the boys ate first and he usually gave his portion to the boys,” the doctor said.
“I’m confident of the coach’s excellent care of the boys before they were located, as their mental and physical conditions were way better than I had expected,” Pak said.
Some netizens have criticised Ekkapol for leading the boys into the cave where they became trapped on June 23 when the water quickly rose after flash floods. However many others have given him their moral support, while encouraging him not to blame himself.
The doctor also posted photos of himself giving the boys goodbye hugs in Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital where they received medical care after being rescued.
Pak and other SEALs were discharged on Sunday while the boys were scheduled to be discharged on Thursday.