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Thai cave boys face the media after leaving hospital

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The 12 boys and their soccer coach, who were rescued from a flooded cave, arrive for a news conference in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. AFP

CHIANG RAI (AFP) – The 12 boys and their football coach who survived a highly dangerous and dramatic rescue from a flooded Thai cave were discharged from hospital yesterday ahead of a press conference where they will tell their incredible story for the first time.

The team of boys were seen wearing football kits, boarded three minibuses at the hospital in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai province.

The players from the “Wild Boars” football club were being discharged a day earlier than previously announced, with authorities hoping a question and answer session would satisfy – at least temporarily – the intense media speculation that has accompanied their epic underground ordeal.

The boys were due to return to their homes later after the press conference.

“The reason to hold this evening press conference is so media can ask them questions and after that they can go back to live their normal lives without media bothering them,” Thailand’s chief government spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said.

Called “Sending the Wild Boars Home” and broadcast on major television channels, the session will last for about 45 minutes, Mr Sunsern said, adding that it would be conducted in an informal style with a moderator.

The briefing was closely monitored, with experts warning of possible long-term distress from the more than two weeks they spent trapped inside a cramped, flooded chamber of the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand.

The public relations department in Chiang Rai province solicited questions from news outlets in advance and they will be forwarded to psychiatrists for screening.

Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha urged the media to be “cautious in asking unimportant questions” that could cause unspecified damage to the young footballers and their coach.

But the organisers have also set up a small makeshift football pitch at the press conference and the boys were expected to kick a ball around at the event.

The daring Thai-led international effort to rescue the team began on June 23 after the boys were trapped by rising floodwaters inside the cave.

After days without a steady supply of food and water they were rescued on July 10.

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