By WASAMON AUDJARINT
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in a 3.45-minute televised message, extended his “sincerest gratitude” to all those who were involved in the mission including volunteers, government officials, private companies and media, as well as the moral support of people across the world.
“Although the mission has been accomplished, images of people from all walks of life coming together to lend their helping hand, regardless of race or religious belief, will remain with all of us forever,” the PM said.
He also recalled the sacrifice of Petty Officer First Class Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL diver, who volunteered to take part in the operation and lost his life. Prayut said Saman’s legacy “will forever be in our hearts”.
Country leaders, footballers and Hollywood celebrities also took to online social platforms to give courage to the Mu Pa Academy team as well as the teams trying to rescue them.
The United States’ top figures from President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and First Lady Melania Trump all tweeted to praise the 18-day effort that had a happy ending.
“Tremendously proud of the brave work of our @PacificCommand colleagues and all those who supported the Thailand-led, multinational rescue team,” Pompeo said in his Twitter account, referring to forces sent from the US Indo-Pacific Command that joined in the operation late last month.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, British PM Theresa May, Singaporean PM Lee Hisen Loong, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also expressed their delight on the success.
“The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved,” May said tweeted on Tuesday.
Guterres called the mission “an example of international solidarity to inspire us all”, while Lee Hsien Loong dubbed it “a remarkable display of the strength of the human spirit”.
British football celebrity David Beckham posted photos of the 12 boys on his Instagram account as he called the boys and their rescuers heroes and described the late Saman as “incredible”.
“The mission was not without sacrifices. Our hearts go to Petty Officer First Class Saman, who tragically lost his life while delivering oxygen tanks into the cave during the mission”, Mahathir said on his Facebook.
American actor Laurence Tureaud, known professionally as Mr T, called the Thai Navy SEALs and divers participating in the quest “extraordinary, unbelievable and miraculous” in his tweet.
Welsh actor Luke Evans also said, “Extraordinary bravery from the boys and the rescuers! #ThaiCaveRescue”.
Meanwhile, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai yesterday said that the Thai government would send letters thanking all foreign nations and private sectors that extended a helping hand for the rescue mission, irrespective of whether or not the offer of help was taken up.
Assistance from seven countries including Laos, Myanmar, the US, the United Kingdom, Australia and China contributed to the operation.
Dozens of other countries such as Sri Lanka, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Canada, France, India, South Korea, the Netherlands, Russia, Norway and New Zealand also offered communication technologies, cave drills, water pumps, cave and rescue experts to the Thai authorities.
But a regional organ in which Thailand participates – the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance – did not offer to join in the effort as “Thailand understood from the beginning that we would be able to handle this by ourselves”, Don said.
The Thai government will also hold receptions to thank the rescuers involved in the mission, while the foreign ones will be treated as Royal Guests, with the Royal Household offering hospitality for their stay in Thailand and their trips back home, the foreign minister said.
“This event also demonstrates our soft power connectivity |with the globe, aligning Thai humanity and benevolence with international perceptions,” Don added.
Meanwhile, the rescue-command chief and former Chiang Rai governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said on Tuesday night, soon after the mission was deemed successful, that about 10,000 people had contributed to the success.
“I hope we will learn a lesson and develop a practical model |for future operations,” Narongsak said, as he also recalled Saman’s bravery as the “Tham Luang Hero”.