The Thai soccer players whose miraculous cave rescue gripped the world earlier this year have visited an interactive exhibit of their ordeal at a Bangkok shopping centre.
They recounted their memories of the rescue as they visited the exhibit in the Siam Paragon mall on Thursday.
Called “Tham Luang’s Incredible Mission: The Global Agenda“, the interactive showcase features a 10-metre model of the tunnel divers had to manoeuvre in to get the 12 boys and their coach out of the caves.
It has dive suits, the simulated sound of dripping water and even underwater robots.
The boys from the Wild Boars soccer team – who seemed in good spirits on their visit – crawled through the replica tunnel.
On psychologists’ advice, Thai authorities have banned the media from speaking to the boys for six months, in the hope they can return to normality after their frightening three weeks underground.
Media outlets must obtain permission from the Thai government before approaching them.
But interest in their story has not died down. There are even Hollywood movie deals in the works.
And Thailand’s military government has not been reluctant to trot the group out for public appearances and interviews.
A group of boys rescued from a cave in Thailand relive their experience by crawling through a replica tunnel at a shopping centre in Bangkok.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 6, 2018
On Thursday, they were greeted by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and then interviewed by government spokesman Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak.
Asked how their lives had changed after the rescue, Prachak Sutham, the first Wild Boar to escape the cave, said: “Things are the same, but more people know me now.”
Team captain Duangpetch Promthep said most of his 300,000 followers on Instagram claim to be his fans.
The boys toured the exhibit after the hour-long interview, seeing a model of the stretcher that carried them out. On it was a mannequin with an oxygen face mask.
The exhibit also had a statue commemorating Saman Kunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL diver who died installing air tanks along the perilous route.
One visitor to the exhibit, Thipwipa Aranyakasem, 83, said the boys and their coach would not have survived their ordeal without help from international divers “because Thailand doesn’t have that experience”.
Later on Thursday, the football players were the guests of honour at a government-sponsored banquet to celebrate their rescue, called “United as One”.
Authorities expected more than 10,000 people to attend the feast at Dusit Palace in the heart of Bangkok’s old quarter.
Guests included foreign divers and cavers. Among them was British diver Vernon Unsworth, who had a key role in saving the boys but has more recently been in the headlines after he was insulted by Tesla billionaire Elon Musk via Twitter.
In August, three of the boys and coach Ekapol Chanthawong were granted Thai citizenship. All had previously been considered stateless, even though they were born in Thailand, until local authorities checked their qualifications, including birth certificates.