Thai cave miracle: Hero refugee boy, 14, who speaks five languages helped co-ordinate dramatic rescue

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Three of the 12 boys are seen recovering in their hospital beds after being rescued from the cave in Thailand (AP)

The Thai boys cave rescue is a story of many heroes – including one of the boys himself, who helped co-ordinate the rescue by communicating with British divers.

Myanmar refugee Adul Sam-on, is able to speak five languages – including English – and was able to translate instructions between the divers, the group of young boys and their football coach.

Adul, who also speaks Thai, Burmese, and Chinese, began school when he was seven years old having left his family behind to get a good education.

He was among the group of 12 boys trapped deep inside the Tham Luang cave in Thailand, who were all rescued this week in a dangerous operation.

Family members watch the rescued boys through a window outside the recovery ward at the Chiang Rai hospital in Chiang Rai province (AP)
All 12 boys were safely rescued from the cave deep underground (Various)

His instructor, Phannee Tiyaprom at Ban Pa Moead School, told AFP: ‘The first thing that comes to mind when I talk about him is his nice manner. He gives a ‘wai’ gesture to every teacher he walks past, every time.’

School director Phunawhit Thepsurin added: ’He’s a gem.

‘He’s good at both studying and sports… he’s brought our school several medals and certificates from his achievements.’


The 12 boys rescued from deep within the flooded cave made victory signs from their hospital beds in a video from the isolation ward where they are recuperating after an 18-day ordeal, as it merged they were drugged with ketamine to stop them panicking during the operation.

Authorities had previously denied the children were drugged but Prayut Chan-o-Cha confirmed that they had been given anxiolytic ‘to make them not excited, not stressed’.

One of the British divers added: ‘I was told the boys were given a dose of ketamine to keep them calm.’

The boys were all rescued from the cave in a perilous journey (AP)

In video footage from their hospital beds, the youngest boy, 11, appeared asleep under a white sheet while others, including their 25-year-old football coach, sat in bed, their faces obscured by green surgical masks.

Nurses chatted with them and the boys responded with the customary Thai sign of respect – hands pressed together while bowing the head.

Parents watched and waved from behind a glass barrier, their faces vivid with emotion.

Rescuers hold an evacuated boy inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Mae Sai (AP)

Chaiwetch Thanapaisal, director of Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital, told a news conference: ‘Don’t need to worry about their physical health and even more so for their mental health.

‘Everyone is strong in mind and heart.’

The four boys and their coach who were brought out Tuesday, the final day of a three-day push, had recovered more quickly than the boys rescued on Sunday and Monday, Mr Chaiwetch said.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice (AP)

However, they all need to be monitored in the hospital for seven days and then rest at home for another 30 days. Three have slight lung infections.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, but monsoon rains soon filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape.

They were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later, huddled on a small, dry shelf just above the water.