Stateless and Poor, Some Boys in Thai Cave Had Already Beaten Long Odds

Several of the boys stuck in a Thai cave already knew hardship as refugees from Myanmar. One multilingual boy acted as interpreter with rescuers.


Comments: 70

  1. What a glorious manifestation of human ingenuity and selflessness and endurance and self-sacrifice!

  2. Adul, a boy who has now touched so many hearts. His smile is emblazoned in my mind. If only we who are so spoiled could remember characteristics like bravery, stamina, hope, manners, and humility.

  3. The story of Adul 's life before the he and the soccer team were rescued from the cave ,for me , explains how he and the others were able to survive both days when lost in the cave and the physically and emotionally demanding " miracle" rescue. Resilience, endurance , and hope should not be underrated.

  4. Adul, you are an inspiration to the world. I wish you and all those trapped within the cave a wonderful future and life!

    You are all exceptional human beings, through your darkness you were full of HOPE and courage to see your way out to freedom and to return to your families and those who love you the most.

    It was that love that fed you and kept your spirits alive during this ordeal.

    The world was watching you. Now we can embrace you and give thanks to you and all those involved in this mission of HOPE and daring. Yes, your lives have changed forever. But so have ours.

    Bless you all and peace be with you!

  5. Wonderful ending . Bravery , endurance, love, patience, heroics, and talent. Thank you for knowing when to meditate and knowing when to study and become great rescuers . Most of all, thank you for showing the world how to care .

  6. We are all stateless. Our borders and walls are artificial. We are all free spirits, we choose voluntarily which nation, which set of parents we want to be born with. These boys show us, we are indeed spiritual beings having a human experience. The boys and their coach demonstrated to the entire world that meditating inside a cave with acceptance, hope and prayers in their hearts and beings, were the best offerings to the Universe.
    They had each other, they were not alone and they knew the entire world was praying for them. In these times of wars conflicts strife, this Thai cave incident shows us, we humans can come together, and pray for innocent lives, everywhere. Let us not create any more refugees, not participate in the separation of children and their guardians.

  7. Now this is something worth reporting. If the world - including Elon Musk, of course - can come together, let's work on the Rohingya crisis

  8. This has been a very worthwhile chapter in life's long read. Courageous young men. Courageous adults. Inspirational.

  9. Meditation is a tool for physical and mental strength, health and therefore survival. I wish we taught this to all children, instead of tying it to 'hope' and 'prayers' and religious-type thinking.

  10. Meditation is an offering to the universe to acknowledge we are in synch with it, our source, our origin. It has no religion ethnicity tribe color gender or dimension. It is a state of deathlessness. You are absolutely right, it ought to be taught to our children just as we start conditioning them: you are a boy, you are a girl, you are American, you are white, you are black, you are straight, you are Christian, you are rich, you are poor, you are superior because of your color...etc etc etc

  11. About a decade ago, they did try teaching meditation to grade school students. However, there were complaints from some of the more fervent Christian parents that the practice encouraged Eastern mysticism (they're the same types that try to ban Harry Potter books for "encouraging witchcraft"). I don't know what happened to the program. I also remember similar groups complaining about yoga as exercise. It's a shame since secular science has conclusively shown that meditation is beneficial, regardless of one's faith or lack thereof.

  12. I am afraid for all of us, confused about the present and uncertain of the future. What morality do people ascribe to when they only care about themselves and only care about money and power? What future do we have, when each government seems to be intent on putting up walls to prevent those in need from obtaining refuge? The courage, patience, and determination shown by these boys and their honorable coach reminds me that there is another way. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  13. Thank you so very much for this inspiring story, particularly the backgrounds of Coach Ek and Adul. I can't help but note that these two "stateless" persons have not only been integrated into Thai society as a member of the soccer club and a "big brother," both contributed enormously to the team's ability to survive.

    Their lives belie the falsehood that immigrants or refugees are a threat to us and our existing "order." Bravo and a heartfelt Namaste! to all.

  14. What an amazing story. The children and their coach and all the rescuers are truly heroic human beings. Thank you for the indepth report. I can't help but compare their ordeal to that of the children separated by force by our government. I wish we would all take a lesson from the attitudes the world shows toward the children in the cave; how prayers, aid, and the miraculous heroism of rescuers kept us riveted. Adul is a refugee child whose parents 'slipped' him across the border so he might have a better life. He is a shining example of strength and hope in adversity. As his principal says, those children without a State, the refugees are fighters with amazing spirit. Why can we not view undocumented immigrants from South America who are struggling with similar attitude and awareness? Celebrate and admire their fortitude to overcome the hardships and stamina required to make the journey here?

  15. “After you come out of the cave,” they instructed their son in a note, “you have to say thank you to every single officer.”

    I was in Mae Sai 30 months ago, midway thru taking a day to cross from Myanmar to Thailand to Laos. I was celebrating retirement by traveling all winter thru Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, having never been there before.

    Go! You'll feel like you're on a different planet! Adul and his parents and their irreplaceable spirit are everywhere, remarkable. My head was sent spinning every day of about 120 days by the simplest acts of selflessness.

    It really makes me wonder what wealth consists of.

  16. How wonderful to read about the selflessness of others during these days of perversion in the most powerful democracy in the world. Let Freedom Ring, wherever it can still be heard!

  17. These are the boys that should be allowed in the US, good examples of humanity.

  18. Maybe, just maybe they are where they belong and will thrive.

  19. I can hear Trump bellowing now: "They are heroes because they were rescued from a cave. I like people who don't get stuck in caves."

  20. Who says they would even want to come here? It’s not like this is such a great place anymore for people who look “different.”

  21. This rescue was a ray of light in a very dark world. We all waited and prayed. Amazing job the Seals did. They should get the highest praise from everyone.

  22. "Abdul is the best of the best" I like that quote. Very brave young men.

  23. What a beautiful, relevant part of this story. Every single person on this earth matters. An immigrant boy, an immigrant coach... my heart is swelling and my eyes, watering. Thank you, New York Times, for filling in these rich details. Life and people are very complex... and wonderful teachers if we pay attention.

  24. May they all have bountiful futures.

    And may we learn from this small but inspiring adventure.

    In this country, the coach would have been in jail and Adul in detention: their futures curtailed, their identities obscured, no hope for the future. A living death.

  25. Oh my oh my. Feelings of humility and respect overwhelm me.

  26. Boy, there was a lot of context packed into this excellent article. Kudos to the author for writing it, and to the NYT for publishing it.

  27. Outstanding reporting. Thank you NYT and reporters for this nuanced and inspirational story.

  28. I wish our president could read this article; it beautifully illuminates why we are not to be judged, or our lives determined, by the "accident if our birth."

  29. Adul’s parents, who are advising him to say thank you to every single person who helped with this mission, maybe ought to get one bundle of gratitude.

    They obviously love their child. They love him enough to encourage scholastic success. They love him enough to try to teach him to be a team player with his sport teammates. They love him enough to let him know speaking more than one language helps in a big world like this one; communicating with other cultures opens people up to new and sometimes long lasting, meaningful relationships.

    And they love this boy enough to teach him to say thank you, to be grateful. Because it is in being grateful we share joy, we share happy days, we share who we are.

    Adult is a boy, yes, in age, but he’s well on his way to becoming a wonderful man. And for that - the world is grateful to him and to his parents.

    Thank you. Two little words put together, but they travel miles and miles around the world. Thank you, Adul.

  30. The commentators mentioned that these boys had meditated during their time in the cave. And that helped them when they had to make the dive out (2 miles) plus a small amount of sedative that was administered. I can only think that their amazing survival can be partly accounted for by this ancient practice that we in the West are only in recent decades beginning to see the benefits of.

    I think it is true that as poor children, some of them refugees from Myanmar, they had experienced hardships such as hunger and deprivation in their young lives before this horrific accident. They had the inner strength one develops when one needs to survive.

    I pray that these 12 boys go on to lead long, healthy and happy lives.

  31. The incident is proof that the better angels bend the arc of history. There is more to do and there is hope for all societies, which will be marked by how the most vulnerable are treated.
    Adul, Ek, the Thai institutions, and the altruistic contributions of the recovery team members, marked in particular by the ultimate sacrifice by the former Thai Navy Seal, certainly will guide me.

  32. So much for the theory that families are the best environment for children!
    But how will statelessness be addressed when this person is of age? (Same problem as I see it for the DACAs and the border children who will not be reunited with their parents. Some parents will disappear hoping their children get a chance at a better life.

  33. Most of us, if we have a shred of humanity, would agree that in ideal circumstances, children are best off with the people who love them most i.e. their families. Alas, at times parents make unfathomable sacrifices, as Adul's have, because they want a better life for their children....or, simply, life. Based on the story, it seems that the young man is in regular contact with his parents. Good for them.

    Regardless of what your views on borders are, one must feel compassion for the people faced with these situations. There but for the grace of God go I.

  34. “After you come out of the cave,” they instructed their son in a note, “you have to say thank you to every single officer.”

    When I read that last sentence a tear came to my eye.
    There is so much in that, so much about this story, a testament to the boys and their teacher. Ms Beech wrote with clarity and compassion.
    One can read so much in it and for that I thank the reporter and applaud all those that helped save these boys and their teacher.

    " You have to say thank you! "

  35. These admirable people should be held up as a shining example to Americans. We have lost our way by becoming vindictive and litigious.

  36. Another Hannah - Hannah Arendt - wrote in "The Origins of Totalitarianism", "...statelessness, the newest mass phenomenon in contemporary history...", and how the term 'stateless' "...at least acknowledges the fact that these persons had lost the protection of their government and required international agreements for safeguarding their legal status". The remarkable rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the Tham Luang Cave calls for a celebration , but the plight of many of these involved who are stateless (a more realistic term vs. 'refugee' or 'displaced person') and frequently from marginalized segments of a population, should not be overlooked/forgotten.

  37. Heroism, grace under pressure and generosity. How very worthy poor and stateless human beings can be. Humbled and wiser after this story. Good luck to the Wild Boars.

  38. That refugee angle is a nice touch.

    Ties it in with the Southern Border.

    Writer deserves a bonus with his check.

  39. Agreed, but: her check.

  40. Wonderful follow up article that takes us to a deeper place of knowledge regarding Thai society, ethnic minorities, statelessness, etc.

    I have been particularly moved, throughout this entire episode,
    with the politeness of the Thai people: there have been no threats of a class action suit, no denouncement of the coach, no attempts to turn the situation into an us vs them scenario.

    Thank you for letting us know more about the worthy Adul and the Wild Boar coach.

  41. Thank you for this news item. I thank any and all who contributed to enlighting us all to this glowing example of humanity at its finest,

  42. What an uplifting news story, demonstrating the grace of all -children, coach, rescuers and parents - under such agonizing pressure. And what a contrast to the circus it would have been had this happened in America, with cable news wantonly spreading blame, rumors, lies, outrage, and lawsuits filed left and right. Not to mention publicity hounds seeking to soak attention for no reason. Witness the witless musk who pronounced the need for a mini submarine a few days back, and slightly that by a million.

  43. In spite of his deprived background, Adul has proven he's a young man of intelligence and merit. It's been a traumatic time watching daily this mammoth effort as it happened. anxiously waiting for the next nail biting stage. Although everyone felt the tension there never was one dissonant word to alarm as to possible tragic consequences, then just this evening on the news an experienced diver spoke of his own fear as similar rescues often do not succeed. Today, after the euphoria, it was very sad to hear that shortly after Dr. Richard Harris came out the cave, he found out that his father had died. Dr Harris looked took charge of their health basing his decision as to what order the 13 of them would come out. Unimaginable worldwide success when people choose to work together in harmony.

  44. I can't help but mention the elephant in the room. Trump would not have let this family send their son to the U.S. for protection. Sadly, those who have qualities to improve how we treat each other are not welcome at this time.

  45. Adul has “no citizenship papers from any country.” If he were picked up by ICE on the street in an American city, what would be his fate? Yet because he wound up in a cave in Thailand, the world celebrates his heroism. Humanity is such a curious entity.

  46. As shown by the last few weeks, in Thailand people behave in a more civilized fashion than in the US. Can you imagine if this had happened here, with the press, the parents, the blame being thrown around, the threats of lawsuits, complaints and hysteria? No, just mai pen rai all round. Kudos to all involved in the rescue and I hope all 13 focus on the positive as they recover.

  47. An impossible miracle rescue due to compassion, cooperation and selflessness.

    Makes me wonder why we cannot do the same and bring refugee families separated by the Trump regime back together...it must be because the Trump regime simply doesn't care or doesn't want to. Sad..

    How you gonna vote in November America? You want more of this or do you want to put a stop it. You know what you have to do - vote like your life depends on it.

  48. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

  49. Agreed: the problem here is a media that turns every event into a circus of rumors, opinion, and gossip - fanning the flames of discord.

  50. This was the deepest, most revealing and therefore the most moving story I have seen in the coverage of the trapped soccer team. Beyond the hype of do-gooders riding to the rescue (which was definitely an impressive story...although the majority kept referring to oxygen tanks used by the divers when I am pretty sure they were Air tanks!), this story revealed the realities of the culture, and respect and kindness instead of placing blame! Thank you.

  51. A subtitle of the article could have been, "why immigrants are so valuable," but then many who did read this example of the value of immigrants might not have. Hopefully the message was not lost on them.

  52. This is why I subscribe to the New York Times. It offers superior quality journalism.

  53. Adul Sam-on, if he can stay the course, just could emerge as a future world leader. His hard-earned experience and resulting expertise in the ways of the world make him a prime candidate in the future. Let's not lose track of this intelligent young man. Thank you, NYT, for telling his story so eloquently.

  54. After the boys have recuperated and recovered from their ordeal I would love to see them go to the nearest DisneyWorld should they wish.

  55. "should they wish," indeed! I can hardly believe that such a trip would be first on their wish list.

  56. This article brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful story in our world headed by shallow and immoral people keen to make a quick buck at any cost. There might be hope for humanity yet.

  57. We are seeing the emergence of a new generation of heroes. Ekkapol Chantawong, the young couch and Abdul Sam-on, the Thai boy who was able to translate, are two we need to watch over time to see how they become the leaders they seem destined to be. I am thinking also of many of our teens such as David Hogg, who have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate, strong leadership abilities. These are the young people who give me hope.

  58. Wonderful insights gained NYT and I thank you for them.
    The spirit and courage on display by this Coach and team should serve as a prima facie example of the "tough get going"
    to those far more fortutate...

  59. These boys exemplify the struggles of all migrant children caught up in horrible political situations for which they share no blame. Reading about their kindness and equanimity during their ordeal, and about the beautiful character of their coach, reminds me that all the young children who sought a better life in America who have been separated from their parents and chained and caged would be more welcomed and safer in the sorts of Buddhist sanctuaries mentioned here, rather than in the hypocristian prison camps and niggardly group homes that billionaires like Betsy DeVos and others like her own, who aim to profit off children's misery.

  60. An inspiring article every American should read. The courage and perseverance of these children can be found in those who cross our borders each day. I wish America would treat these refugees with as much care & concern as Thailand. The contrast to what is occurring on our soil each day is mind boggling.

  61. Can't help but contrast the cave rescue with our president and his administration. Sad!

  62. Amazing Story. What a fine young man Adul is. Hope his life and Coach Ek's too is full of joy and fulfillment from here on out. Thailand comported itself extremely well in this crisis. Extremely well. So impressed with the courage, professionalism, and perseverance of all involved, especially the Wild Boars.

  63. This story is an amazing testament to the best in humanity and what can be achieved when people of all cultures and countries (and even some without countries) work together with respect for the dignity of others. An amazing story of grace, courage, humility, kindness, patience, generosity, compassion.... just the story the world needed now. So unfortunate that so many of we human seem to have lost our way.... We are going to find our way back to our humanity - if we have any hope of providing a better world for our children.

  64. A wonderful story about this young Abdul.

    I hope one of our top universities like Caltech which I attended - takes interest in this boy.

    And offers him an unlimited scholarship when he is ready - which I will be happy to contribute.

  65. I nearly cried. I’m fairly certain I didn’t see this in-depth reporting in the WSJ. It would be great if we could use his skill set in the armed forces some day! Oh wait he can’t help. Apparently we don’t want “foreigners “ help in the army anymore? Thanks for sharing NYT

  66. I hope all these boys and coach who are stateless are offered citizenship after this ordeal. They have proven themselves to be great Thais no matter their status.

  67. The best thing I've read in weeks, maybe all year.

  68. Everyone keeps saying "amazing" ... there just isn't any other word.

  69. Like so many refugees, Adul is proficiently multilingual, intelligent and grateful to be so. This is the case with so many refugees who come to the United States. They inspire me!

  70. Yes - I too want to be sure to follow this young man's course in life!!