Thousands of people swarmed a well-known square in the Thai capital on Thursday evening (Sept 6) as the young Thai football team who were dramatically rescued from a flooded cave in July attended a formal thank-you dinner presided by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The 12 young members of the Moo Pa (Wild Boar) Academy and their coach, had been mostly kept away from talking to media as the government tries to help them return to normality.
They earlier spoke to the media in a group interview at Siam Paragon mall.
The gala dinner was held at the Royal Plaza to thank the teams of divers and rescuers, including foreigners who helped in the successful rescue operation at Tham Luang cave two months ago.
Speaking at the event, PM Prayut said: "No matter what role you were playing in this mission, you have uplifted us all by showing the world the ultimate power of unity, love, kindness, and faith in humanity, which is a power that can help us overcome all obstacles."
Thai and international rescue personnel and divers were given royal notes of appreciation bestowed by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The young footballers and their coach were trapped from June 23 after the cave in Chiang Rai province that they in, was flooded. They were found by two British cave divers Richard Stanton and John Volanthen on July 2. Extraction operations were carried out between July 8 and 10.
Adul Sam-on, a 14-year-old member of the Moo Pa team, read the thank you remark on behalf of his teammates at the dinner.
"The fact that we have been saved makes us feel that we have to return the gratitude by living good lives, being good children to the parents and being good students to the teachers."
"After we left the cave, we have learned of the love and care that Thais and people all over the world have for us and we felt overwhelmed and we want to thank you all from the heart."
Ms Narinthorn Na Bangchang, a rescue coordinator who led the first group of cave divers to Tham Luang during the first days of the boys' disappearance told The Straits Times: "I'm very happy that all of them are safe. I don't have any particular expectation for the boys except that they would grow up and be happy."
Ms Narinthorn says all lessons drawn from the event are positive, except the passing of ex-Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan or Sergeant Sam who passed away in the cave during an operation on July 6.
The young footballer Adul thanked "Uncle Sam" and his family for his sacrifice.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.