A Myanmar-born boy dramatically rescued from a Thai cave along with his soccer teammates and their coach this week is being praised for his role being the sole communicator with British divers.
The 14-year-old, Adul Sam-on, who is proficient in English, was able to speak for the group of 12 young boys and their 25-year-old coach, and played a vital role in the team’s rescue after they were trapped underground for more than two weeks.
The rescue finally ended Tuesday when the final four boys and their coach emerged from the cave.
Adul’s English skills are especially impressive because he comes from a country where less than a third of the population speaks the language.
Footage showed several of the boys in hospital, in quarantine and wearing face masks but seemingly in good health as they nod, wave and flash peace signs to the cameras.
The well-mannered Adul was heard in a video broadcast around the world previously asking divers, ‘What day is it?’ and telling them that the group was hungry.
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Myanmar-born boy Adul Sam-on, 14, (pictured right) was able to communicate with British divers, helping lead to the group’s dramatic rescue after they were trapped underground for more than two weeks
Adul comes from a country where less than a third of the population speaks the English language
The rescue of the Thai soccer team ended Tuesday when the final four boys and their coach emerged from the cave
Images of the wide-eyed teen were beamed around the world when he was discovered alive with the rest of his young football team deep inside the Tham Luang cave.
‘I’m Adul, I’m in good health,’ the rake-thin 14-year-old said in Thai in a video that emerged hours after the group was discovered, offering a traditional Thai ‘wai’ greeting — trademark politeness, his teachers say.
‘The first thing that comes to mind when I talk about him is his nice manner. He gives a ‘wai’ gesture to every teacher he walks past, every time,’ his instructor Phannee Tiyaprom at Ban Pa Moead School told AFP.
Born in Myanmar’s self-governing Wa State, young Adul – who also speaks Thai, Burmese, and Chinese – has been at the school since he was seven years old.
He left his family behind to get a better education in northern Thailand, but his parents still visit him at the Christian Church where he’s been taken in.
Wa State, a self-ruled region not recognised internationally — nor by Myanmar — is not allowed to legally issue passports.
Fighting between ethnic rebels from United Wa State Army and Myanmar troops has historically driven thousands from the state seeking safety and greener pastures, including to nearby Thailand.
All 12 players, pictured from top left clockwise, Adul Sam-on, 14, Panumas Saengdee, 13, Sompong Jaiwong, 13, Ekkarat Wongsookchan, 14, Pipat Bodhi, 15, Peerapat Sompiangjai, 16, Pornchai Kamluang, 16, Prajak Sutham, 14, Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, Mongkol Boonpiam, 14, Nattawut ‘Tle’ Takamsai, 14 and Duangpetch Promthep, 13
Members of the Wild Boars football team are seen being treated at a hospital in Chiang Rai, their parents on the other side of a glass window
Some of the 12 Wild Boar FC boys are seen lying on hospital beds
While some of the boys were lying down, others are seen sitting up and making gestures to the camera
Adul is among more than 400,000 people who are registered as stateless in Thailand, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) — though some estimates put their numbers at 3.5 million.
‘Whilst some progress has been made, stateless people in Thailand continue to face challenges accessing their basic rights,’ UNHCR spokeswoman Hannah Macdonald told AFP.
With no birth certificate, no ID card and no passport, Adul cannot legally marry, get a job or bank account, travel, own property or vote.
Thailand has vowed to register all stateless people by 2024, but until then people like him remain stuck in legal limbo.
But he refuses to let his status hold him back.
The passionate footballer also loves to play the piano and guitar, and is an accomplished student too.
‘He’s a gem,’ school director Phunawhit Thepsurin told AFP.
‘He’s good at both studying and sports… he’s brought our school several medals and certificates from his achievements.’
The video of the rescue, which ended on Tuesday when the final four boys and their 25-year-old coach emerged from the cave, was released by authorities who had until Wednesday closely guarded the details of the unprecedented operation
‘Some of them were asleep, some of them were wiggling their fingers… (as if) groggy, but they were breathing,’ Commander Chaiyananta Peeranarong told AFP
Junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday said the boys had been given a ‘minor tranquiliser’ to prevent anxiety during the complex extraction bid
Despite spending days in the dark, dank, cave health officials said the boys – who are aged 11 to 16 – are in good physical and mental health and eating normal food
A few seconds earlier he is seen seemingly grasping for one of the rescue medics while still wearing an oxygen mask
The footage shows a complex operation with numerous divers and rescue workers using pulleys, ropes and rubber piping to haul the children to safety
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