By Anson Liski
They’ll be known forever as the Thai Cave Boys – 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their 25-year-old assistant coach, escaped certain death – and few can deny anything short of a miracle.
The mission to get the boys home captured the hearts of millions of people around the world.
Saving the boys was a multi-country effort, enlisting 13 elite divers from all over the world including Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
But the rescue was not without a high cost – the life of volunteer and former Thai Navy SEAL diver, Saman Kunan, lost his life trying to save the boys.
The amazing part of this now global story is, while everyone is celebrating their survival and subsequent rescue – before they even entered the cave some of the boys did not have a “home” to go to.
They are considered stateless.
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, the head coach of the team, Nopparat Kanthawong, confirmed that three of his players, and his assistant coach are not Thai citizens; he also confirmed that of the 80 boys in the Wild Boar age brackets, about 20 are stateless.
Adul Sam’on, the 14-year-old who served as the interpreter with the British divers, and the 25-year-old assistant coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, were rescued by religious organizations early in their lives to avoid the complications that come with statelessness.
Adul was taken in by a Church, Maesai Grace, that also runs a school for migrant children.
Today, however, according to the Irish Times, his exceptional intellect and athletic ability have earned him free tuition and school meals.
Ekapol, entered a Buddhist monastery a few years after his parents died from an illness when he was 10. He studied at the monastery until he left to take care of his ailing grandma.
Were it not for Ekapol’s training by the Buddhist monks, this story could have turned out much differently.
Dr. Leah Weiss of Stanford University, a meditation expert, who studied under the Dalai Lama, said, “Being able to keep calm, and maintain good oxygen levels… and the ability to slow their breath and calm themselves down with the minimal resources – was instrumental in their survival.”
But it was not only the heroics of coach Ekapol that kept the boys alive – the Thai Navy Seals, along with the expert divers from around the world, the Thai soldiers and paramedics, and over 2,000 volunteers worked on the rescue.
This mission was a miraculous success, the Thai Navy SEALS posted on their Facebook page, “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what.”
When all the media attention dies down, what will happen to the boys is probably a good bet – they’ll be celebrities in their homeland and hopefully be taken care of, but, what about the many other boys who need saving in Thailand?
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that there are about, 440,000 stateless people in Thailand, but the International Observatory on Statelessness puts estimates much higher at 3.5 million.
The world refugee crisis has hit all corners of the globe and situation in Canada isn’t much better.
It’s estimated that over 400 asylum seekers will cross the border into Quebec every day this summer. They’re pouring into Canada from the United States, as another 60,000 illegal migrants are expected to make their way into different parts of Canada in 2018 – an increase of 40,000 from 2017.
In Toronto, Mayor John Tory, says the city can no longer handle anymore refugee claimants. In a CBC interview he said, “We have exhausted our available sites, our resources, and our personnel.”
While many call the rescue of the Thai Cave Boys a miracle – how they were able to survive nine days in the cave and another nine days until they were rescued, and how their coach’s Thai Buddhist meditation training kept the boys calm and limited their oxygen intake, and how Adul was able to communicate their vitals to the divers.
It is now time for us to look to our stateless brothers and sisters who are in stuck in a different kind of cave with its own dangers and limitations. Are we not capable of another miraculous rescue?
With files from Susan Ponting
Photo source: CBC.