Mae Sai, Thailand — It’s a simple melody sung to the plucking of acoustic guitars by schoolchildren sitting around candles: “I beg the skies to show mercy and empathy/ My brothers are in Tham Luang Khun Nang Non/ Let them pass this danger, I beg.”
The song is dedicated to events unfolding in a flooded mountain cave in northern Thailand, where 12 boys aged 11-16 and their soccer coach disappeared a week ago. It was written and performed by students at Lek Nai Tung Kwang school across the kingdom in Buriram province.
The music video has played on national newscasts during round-the-clock coverage of the search and rescue operation at the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in far northern Chiang Rai province. It is part of an outpouring of hope, empathy and concern across the Southeast Asian nation for the boys, their families and the army of people working to bring them home.
“We’re worried. Everybody wants to hear good news,” said Keeta Wariburee, a teacher at the school that produced the video. “We want to help them, but if we went up there we’d probably just get in the way. So we’re doing what we can by sending encouragement.”
Rescuers including elite Thai navy divers, a US military team and British cave experts have been frustrated by incessant rain that has flooded the cave and made locating the boys more difficult. Despite efforts to drain the water, muddy floodwaters reached near the entrance of the cave while rescuers kept trying to find hidden shafts in the green mountainside to access the cavern. In a desperate move, officials dropped into the shafts care packages stuffed with food, beverages, a phone, a flashlight, candles, a lighter and a map of the cave.
For a country that has been deeply divided by political strife and remains under military rule following a coup four years ago, the sight of mud-caked soldiers and volunteers working in pouring rain has filled Thais with both pride and a sense of common cause.