Dramatic rescue of Thai boys an act of humanity

Very often you hear it said that an act could have not been scripted. The events of last week in Northern Thailand where 12 boys, football players for the Wild Boars team, and their coach were entrapped in a cave filled with water is one such act that surely could have never been scripted.

For those who have been enthralled in the World Cup in Russia and are only getting a life now, there is a lot that has been happening elsewhere. Donald Trump, the American President has angered Europeans to no good measure. But when he was not angering the Europeans he was busy locking up children seeking to enter the United States from its Southern border.

In the UK, Theresa May, the optimistic daughter of a priest on whose shoulders the task of navigating the departure of UK from the European Union fell was left holding straws in her hand when two high profile members of her cabinet resigned in a huff.

In Kenya, it has been politics as usual, this time of the kutangatanga variety. Well, except for the case of the relationship between the Kenyan and Chinese workers at the SGR.

For those who care for the local football game, Gor Mahia are on their way back from Dar es Salaam after losing in the semi-finals.

But the real drama has been in Thailand in South East Asia where some boys, and boys will always be boys, after a game of soccer decided, with their coach, to go and have some fun. Their idea of fun was to enter the cave, run through it and find a convenient place to engrave their names. The Tham Luang Cave covered in flush green tress from the outside lies in a beautiful forested area in Northern Thailand near the border with Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. Its population, largely adherents to the Buddhist faith, are well known for their practice of meditation.

While the boys, aged between 11 and 16, were still in the cave finding a place to write their names, the monsoon rains started falling in the world they left behind. With the rains came the floods that followed them into the cave covering the space they left behind. These poor souls who could not swim waded deeper into the cave with the water following behind them. By the time they were discovered nine days later, bewildered, hungry and distraught, they were nearly four kilometers deep inside the cave and world outside was terrified as to where they were and imagining what would have happened to them.

The sign that they were inside the cave of course were the bicycles and backpacks, the telltale signs of life they left behind at the entrance of the cave. This kingdom country was galvanised into action. Their king only recently enthroned, (and now try to pronounce his name): King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun led the path rallying the country, and indeed the world, together with the former general and now Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha to the aid of the children.

It was not too long before the attention of the world was galvanised towards the plight of the 13. What has been unique is how quickly the world came together to help. Divers from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and other countries headed to Bangkok in a rush.

Locals offered food and prayers, while corporates offered what they could. The national airline offered to fly the needed volunteers for free to enable them get there and help. The parents of the boys were so forgiving that when the Boars’ 25-year-old soccer coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, who helped the boys stay alive by conserving their energy during the 10 days before aid arrived sent an apology the parents responded generously by informing him that they held no grudge.

The beauty here is a lesson on what happens when minds converge and commit to do good. The tragedy is that too often it takes such hopelessness to bring out the good in man. For the people who came together to free these hostages of water in the cave one of those noticeable things were their selflessness.

It was a treacherous undertaking, and in fact one of the volunteers lost his life when he ran out of oxygen. But at the end of it there was no chest thumping or effort to take credit. This was humanity at its best. When one looks at the videos and the pictures of the group at work it is hard to see how imagination could have scripted this.

Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language & Performing Arts at Daystar University.

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