Thailand seeks control over movies about cave rescue

The story of the young footballers’ rescue from flooded caves gripped the world.

Duangpetch Promthep, one of the boys rescued from the flooded cave in northern Thailand (AP)
Duangpetch Promthep, one of the boys rescued from the flooded cave in northern Thailand (AP)

Thailand’s military government wants to control how the movie industry portrays the ordeal of the young footballers rescued from a flooded cave.

With the story drawing interest from foreign filmmakers, culture minister Vira Rojpochanarat said he will propose the establishment of a special committee to oversee the production of films, documentaries and videos related to the experiences of the 12 boys and their coach who were trapped in a cave for almost three weeks before being rescued.

The operation in the northern Chiang Rai province, which was successfully completed against the odds, was a rare moment of uplifting news from Thailand, which has been mired in political conflict and heavy-handed military rule for more than a decade.

The boys and their coach at prayer (AP)

Even as the world watched the cave saga, a boat sinking off a southern resort island claimed almost 50 Chinese tourists, an event that normally would have registered as a high-profile disaster.

The cave rescue allowed the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has been criticised for political manoeuvring to stay in power after elections planned for next year, to share in some of the glory.

The Thailand Film Office already regulates the production of films shot in the country by foreign companies, including vetting scripts and issuing filming permits, but Mr Vira said the committee would oversee content, licensing and the protection of privacy of the rescued team and their families.

Mr Vira, speaking after a film board meeting on Thursday chaired by deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, said five foreign film production companies have shown an interest in making a movie or documentary about the cave rescue, and some had already been on location to collect information.

The boys pay their respects to Saman Gunan, the retired Thai SEAL diver who died during their rescue attempt (AP)

Thai film producers have also shown interest, but have not yet contacted the government, Mr Vira said.

The boys and coach of the Wild Boars football team were released from the hospital on Wednesday. At a news conference, they described how they became trapped in the cave, and after 10 days cut off from the outside world they were astonished to see two British divers rising from muddy waters and assuring them work was under way to rescue them.

“This (story) has all the right elements,” Mr Vira said. “If you talk about drama associated with filmmaking, it has everything. It has loss as well as jubilation. The content and story it has for filmmaking is very complete.

Chanin Vibulrungruang reacts after paying respect to a portrait of Saman Gunan (AP)

“Even if you don’t create additional drama, these events had every flavour.”

Several murals and sculptures have already been commissioned to mark the cave adventure.

Many focus on Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy SEAL who volunteered to help with the rescue effort and died while diving on a mission to supply the cave with oxygen tanks essential to helping the boys escape.

Mr Saman is being treated as a national hero.

Press Association

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