CHIANG RAI – Millions of people worldwide were transfixed by the real-world Mission: Impossible playing out in the north of Thailand for two fraught weeks in June and July this year.
Just outside the town of Mae Sai, in the northern Chiang Rai province, 12 boys from the Wild Boars junior soccer team had been taken by their assistant coach to explore the nearby Tham Luang Nang Non cave.
When the cave was unexpectedly flooded, the boys, aged between 11 and 16, and Ekapol “Coach Ek” Jantawong, 24, were trapped deep inside, with no means of communication with the outside world. Only a scooter and 11 bicycles they had left in the bushes outside the cave offered a clue to their whereabouts.
The Wild Boars’ head coach, Naparat “Coach Nok” Guntawong, and overwrought parents sped to the cave, calling out the boys’ names, hoping for some sign of life. “The only answer came from the cave itself, the echoes bouncing the names back at them,” journalist Matt Gutman writes in his new book, The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand.
Gutman, chief national correspondent for American broadcaster ABC News, covered the rescue on the ground. His page-turning book was researched and delivered at breakneck speed, with Gutman interviewing dozens of eyewitnesses, rescuers and experts.
The book is likely just the first of many written accounts to dissect how the thrilling saga unfolded – and is sure to be made into a film.
In July a few weeks after the boys release from hospital , Thai officials slammed journalist Matt Gutman for his exclusive interview with the boys rescued from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, saying the media coverage risked violating child protection laws.
Anira Thinon, a social development and human security official in Chiang Rai, said that Gutman had not obtained permission from officials and had conducted his interviews when the officials assigned to look after the boys were absent.
“We thought that foreign media organizations understood conventions on children’s rights and procedures to protect the young but their standards have turned out to be lower than expected. It seems they lack common sense,”
Although the foreign agencies claim that they had permission from the boys’ parents, it is not right because Thai and foreign journalists were given clear guidelines for their coverage.