Located near the Myanmar-Thailand border is the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system, which has long served as an attraction for tourists eager to immerse themselves in the otherworldly beauty of its caverns.
Thirteen Lives revisits the story of the assistant soccer coach and the 12 boys stranded in the cave complex — which spans more than 10.3 kilometers (6.4 miles) — in 2018.
In 2018, an assistant soccer coach and 12 schoolboys got stranded in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave. Where is the assistant coach now?
Ekapol Chanthawong was the assistant coach of the Wild Boars soccer team, which consisted of 12 boys aged 11 to 16, when they went missing in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23, 2018. Thanks to an international rescue mission involving an estimated 10,000 people, they all left the cave unharmed between July 8, 2018, and July 10, 2018. So, where is soccer coach Ekapol Chanthawong now?
Ekapol Chanthawong, the assistant soccer coach, immediately apologized for his oversight.
Ekapol apologized to the parents of the trapped boys in a handwritten letter while they were still in the cave.
"To the parents of all the kids, right now the kids are all fine, the crew are taking good care. I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible," Ekapol wrote in Thai, via ABC News. "I want to say thanks for all the support, and I want to apologize to the parents."
Ekapol Chanthawong became a Thai citizen in August 2018, after the Tham Luang cave rescue.
Ekapol and a few boys on the Wild Boars football team made headlines in August 2018, after they were granted Thai citizenship. Ekapol and the majority of the football team live in Mae Sai, a village in the Chiang Rai Province.
The Chiang Rai Province is home to a large percentage of ethnic minority groups and vulnerable people, some of whom have historically struggled to secure citizenship. Around 488,105 people were stateless in Thailand in 2018, per the Guardian.
Since Ekapol secured his citizenship, he seems to have remained out of the public eye. In Thirteen Lives, Ron Howard's drama, he is played by Teeradon Supapunpinyo.
Ekapol Chanthawong lost his parents when he was 10.
Ekapol became an orphan aged 10, when a disease swept through his family's home in Northern Thailand. He joined a monastery, and later, moved to Mae Sai to care for his ailing grandmother. Before the Tham Luang cave rescue, Ekapol split his time between working at the monastery and as the assistant soccer coach of the Wild Boars.
"He loved them more than himself," Joy Khampai, Ekapol's close friend, told an Australian news outlet. "He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke. He was the kind of person who looked after himself and who taught the kids to do the same. I know him, and I know he will blame himself."
"He gave a lot of himself to them," Nopparat Kathawong, the head coach of Wild Boars, said.
Thirteen Lives is available in select cinemas now. It premieres on Amazon Prime on Aug. 5, 2022.