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Thai Boys Speak Out On Cave Rescue


Those 12 boys on a soccer team rescued from a cave in Thailand are now going home. The boys and their coach have been recovering in a hospital for the past week. Today, they appeared alongside their doctors for a news conference, hugging friends and apologizing to their parents.


UNIDENTIFIED SOCCER PLAYER: (Through interpreter) And I also want to say, I'm sorry for not telling my parents that I was going to go to the cave. I only told them that I was going to go play football.

GREENE: Let's turn now to reporter Michael Sullivan, who joins us from Chiang Rai in Thailand where the boys are being released. Hi, Michael.


GREENE: So how are they doing? What is the condition of these boys? And how are they feeling?

SULLIVAN: They're doing well enough that they can go home. And they're going home today. And this whole thing was arranged to sort of put a cap on this whole adventure, as it were - this whole ordeal that they went through. And they came in, and there was a miniature soccer field that was set up. And they kind of lamely kicked a few balls in. And then they all sat up on the dais while people started asking them questions. And they looked a little nervous at the beginning. But as the thing wore on, and as these questions were asked, and as these kids were relating their stories, they started looking much more at ease. And they started laughing a little. They started joking a little. And the atmosphere just completely changed. And it seemed like it was really something special.

GREENE: It sounds that way. What are some of the stories that they are now telling?

SULLIVAN: Well, some of the stories they're telling now is that they're really, really, really, really sorry to their parents for, No. 1, not having told them that they were going in in the first place and then for making them worry for over two weeks. They're also very, very sorry to the family of the former Navy SEAL who died trying to rescue them. And mostly, they're sorry that they made the mistake of going in in the first place. But they said it was just a lark. It was just something that they've done before. Some of the kids hadn't been in before, but some had. And the coach had been in many times before. In fact, he had been in farther than where the rescue divers found him before. So they were just out on a lark. They thought they were going to be in there for an hour. They ended up being in there for more than two weeks.

GREENE: Well, Michael, tell me about the coach because I know he's credited with helping them survive these more than two weeks. But I also wonder if he's facing any blame for leading these kids into this cave.

SULLIVAN: Not really, no. The coach is basically seen as a hero, as a guy - a 25-year-old kid who is not Thai, by the way. He's not a Thai national. He's actually stateless. But they're working on that, I'm told. We were told that tonight at the end of this news conference. But they credited him with keeping the kids together, with keeping their spirit and their morale up. And the psychologist and the doctor, who is helping treat the boys at the hospital, said that he was a good guy. He was a good coach. And he did good things for these kids while they were trapped in the cave. So on the contrary, nobody is blaming him for anything. They're thanking him. They're saying he did a good job. He might have just made a bad mistake, but he did a good job.

GREENE: Physically, mentally, any concerns about these kids going forward? Or are doctors saying that their health is not going to be a big worry?

SULLIVAN: Doctors are saying their health is pretty good. Their mental health is pretty good right now. What they're worried about is media attention - overt media attention, too much media attention and people trying to, you know, sort of poke at these kids and get them to tell their story some more and get them to relive their trauma. And doctors say that's exactly what they don't need. Just let them go home, be with their families, go to school and get on with their lives.

GREENE: Reporter Michael Sullivan for us in Chiang Rai in Thailand. Michael, thanks a lot.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.
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