July 10, 2018 / 10:12 AM / 3 months ago

Thailand plans extra security measures at 'world famous' cave: PM

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s prime minister said on Tuesday extra precautions would have be implemented to safeguard tourists who want to visit a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped for more than two weeks.

FILE PHOTO: A spirit and Buddha state image are seen in front of a cave near Tham Luang cave complex, as an ongoing search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach continues, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

The search and dramatic rescue operation to retrieve the 13 from the cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai has attracted global interest and dominated headlines around the world, putting the Tham Luang cave complex firmly on the map.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned that safety measures would have to be put in place inside and outside the cave.

“In future, we have to monitor the entrance and exit to the cave. This cave has become world famous … we have to install more lights inside the cave and put up signs,” Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok.

“It’s a dangerous cave,” said Prayuth, adding that the cave would be closed to the public for a while until “everything is in order”. He did not elaborate.

A rescue mission was launched on Sunday and four of the boys were brought out that day and four on Monday. Officials hope the last four boys and their coach will all be out on Tuesday.

The 12 boys and their soccer coach went missing on June 23 when they were exploring the cave after soccer practice, just before a rainy season downpour flooded the complex.

British divers found the 13, huddled on a muddy bank in a partly flooded chamber several kilometers inside the complex on Monday last week.

Visitors are advised not to enter the cave during the rainy season because it is known to be prone to flooding.

Last week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said it planned to promote the Tham Luang cave as a tourist attraction after it featured so prominently in the news.

“The cave has become of interest for both local and foreign travelers,” Karuna Dechatiwong, TAT director in Chiang Rai province, told media.

Mountainous northern Thailand is riddled with caves.

Some have become places of Buddhist worship over the years, with Buddha images placed inside.

Many have never been explored.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Robert Birsel

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