Bangkok residents are getting a glimpse of what it was really like in Tham Luang Cave during the nerve-wracking rescue mission
The jaw-dropping, world-engrossing drama that unfolded in Chiang Rai’s Tham Luang Cave last month can now be experienced in far-off Bangkok – in safety and comfort, of course, and at an understandably smaller scale.
The Culture Ministry has mounted the interactive exhibition “Tham Luang Incredible Mission: the Global Agenda” at Siam Paragon, complete with an imitation cavern.
Right Man Co has converted a portion of the mall’s Lifestyle Hall into a 10-metre-long replica of Tham Luang, where the 12 young members of the Mu Pa Football Academy and their assistant coach were trapped by surging floodwaters for 19 days.
Finally they were brought to safety in a stomach-churning rescue that had the whole world spellbound.
A couple of young early visitors to the facsimile cave were suitably impressed.
“Inside it’s narrow and dark,” one boy said, relieved to rediscover the exit. “I can imagine how difficult it was for the Mu Pa boys trapped in there for two weeks!”
“The real crisis was even worse because it was flooded,” said another. “They were patient and very strong. We really have to thank all the heroes who saved their lives.”
In all, the exhibition covers 400 square metres, and even that was barely enough for Right Man to squeeze in all the artefacts and often-complicated information gathered from Chiang Rai.
The firm, which specialises in technology and innovative design in creating interactive shows, also helped design the Coin Museum Treasury of Thailand and the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall for the government.
Project director Supapan Chosangchai of Right Man told The Nation Weekend that there were, after all, thousands of rescuers and volunteers involved, from across the Kingdom and around the world. And the firm also didn’t have a lot of time to assemble the show.
But it’s proved to be a fascinating way to experience a modicum of what the boys, their coach and the rescuers went through.
Visitors can see some of the actual equipment used in the operation, along with many stirring photographs and samples of the global media coverage, including TV news broadcasts seen on dozens of monitors.
There are even Royal Thai Navy personnel on hand every day demonstrating how the footballers were secured in specially rigged cots to be dragged, floated and hoisted out to safety.
No one will be left unmoved by the bronze sculpture of Saman Kunan, the former Navy Seal who strapped on his diving gear once again to participate in the mission, only to lose his life while helping prepare for the boys’ extraction.
Nearby is hung a reproduction of a huge painting of the rescue operation done by a team led by National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. A commemorative work by sculptor Sarawut Khummoonchai is also on view.
The artworks dominate “Hail the Hero”, the section of the show devoted to Sanan, and a large writing board has been set up where visitors can leave their own messages of admiration and appreciation.
Another message board was already filled when it arrived. It bears the profound thanks of the 12 lads and their coach, words that can indeed by shared with the world.
Still another display lists the letters of encouragement and gratitude that came from such prominent foreign figures as Pope Francis, US President Donald Trump, Elon Musk and David Beckham.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreangam, who opened the show yesterday, said there was much to learn from the episode, adding, “We can adapt these lessons from the globally united mission in solving other crises that might occur in the future.”
Wissanu said the Culture Ministry would document the facts and lessons of the rescue in the National Archives. Much of what was learned was shared by dozens of mission participants in various fields. This too forms a portion of the exhibition.
Wissanu noted that His Majesty the King had asked the government to host an event at which Thailand could express its gratitude to the rescuers from around the world for the success of their undertaking. It will be held on September 8 at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok and all 8,000 rescuers are being invited to attend, said Wissanu.
The exhibition will close in Bangkok the next day and then tour the country.
His Majesty’s support for the operation is highlighted in the exhibition, and that of other members of the Royal family. The immense empathy the drama evoked among citizens, it says, represented the paragon of “Thainess”.
On hand at the opening sharing their own personal insights were Narongsak Osottanakorn, who is now governor of Phayao but supervised the rescue operations as then-governor of Chiang Rai, Naval Special Warfare Command chief Apakorn Yukongkaew and Dr Pak Loharnchun.
A Thai-language book prepared by the National Archives was also unveiled, describing the rescue mission in detail.