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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Thai cave boys ordained as Buddhist novices

Wild Boars football team will spend nine days at the temple in memory of a diver who died during their dramatic rescue.

Members of the Thai football team pose for photographs after they were ordained as Buddhist novice monks or at Wat Phra That Doi Wao temple, Chiang Rai province, Thailand. EPA
Members of the Thai football team pose for photographs after they were ordained as Buddhist novice monks or at Wat Phra That Doi Wao temple, Chiang Rai province, Thailand. EPA

Eleven members of a Thai football team who were rescued from a flooded cave were ordained as Buddhist novices on Wednesday in memory of a diver who died during their dramatic rescue.

The boys and their 25-year-old football coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, arrived at the Wat Phra That Doi Tung temple in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district dressed in white robes amid light rain and fog.

The group listened to Buddhist chanting before they were given saffron robes during an emotionally-charged ceremony that was broadcast live on Facebook by local authorities.

The group had their hair shaved a day earlier in preparation to become novice Buddhist monks.

"Their lives will change now. This experience will help them to appreciate their parents and give them a taste of Dhamma," Manit Prakobkit, vice chairman of the Mae Sai Cultural Council, said.

The boys and their coach will spend nine days at a Buddhist temple and adhere to the teachings and precepts of Buddhism - Thailand's main religion.

The twelfth member of the team, fourteen-year-old Adul Sam-on, is Christian and was not ordained.

An international operation to rescue the 12 boys and their coach ended on July 10 when the last of the group was brought to safety from inside the flooded Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai.

During the rescue operation, the boys' families promised that, in return for their safe rescue and in memory of diver Samarn Kunan, 38, the boys would ordain as novices.

Samarn, a former member of Thailand's elite navy SEALs unit, was the only casualty in the operation to save the boys and their coach after monsoon rains trapped them inside the cave.

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At the temple on Wednesday the boys helped each other to put on their new garments in a ceremony attended by their relatives and Samarn's wife, Valeepoan Kunan.

The ceremony ended with attendees and temple visitors scrambling to collect pockets of coins scattered into the air - a custom in Thai ordination ceremony to signify giving up worldly treasures - with most catching the pockets in their umbrellas.

The boys and Ekapol had gone to explore the caves on June 23 when they became trapped. They survived for nine days on water dripping from rocks before they were discovered on a muddy mound by divers.