CHIANG RAI, 15 October 2019: Tham Luang cave complex where 12 young footballers and their coach were trapped will reopen to visitors later this year, according to the environment minister.
Located at the foot of the mountain range separating Thailand and Myanmar just 10 km from the Mae Sai border town in Chiang Rai province, environmental minister VarawutSilpa-archa said the area would officially become a national park next month.
The Thai cabinet has to approve the move, and then its status will be gazetted.
“Depending on weather conditions and assurances that safety standards in place, the cave will be open by year-end with strict limitations access. Visitors will be able to walk no more than 150 meters to the first chamber,” Varawut told local press last week.
Officials are confident tourists will flock to the cave following the premiere of the documentary movie on the rescue mission.
Salvage teams removed quipment abandoned in the cave after the rescue operation with some items now on display in the pavilion near the cave’s entrance.
ThamLuang attracted worldwide attention last year when 12 young footballers and their coach were trapped in the flooded cave system for 17 days. The epic rescue operation, which involved more than 10,000 officials and volunteers, concluded successfully 10 July with all the boys and coach safely rescued by a team of international divers and support workers.
One volunteer, a former SEAL, SamanKunan, died during the rescue effort. A monument erected in front of the cave pays tribute to him. Nearby the Hall of Celebrations features a mural honouring the teams of volunteers from around the world.
A documentary movie “The Cave” premiered in Seoul in South Korea at a film festival 5 October. It s due in cinemas across Thailand in November including Chiang Rai.
The TAT office in Chiang Rai has pledged to promote the film and organise media and package trips for travellers, but no details have yet been released by the office.