captain of Wild Boars football team, killed himself at school in UK

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Dom, captain of Wild Boars football team, killed himself at school in UK
The captain of the Thai football team trapped in a cave for several days in 2018, took his own life while at school in the UK, a coroner has ruled, according to BBC.

Duangphet Phromthep was found unconscious at Brooke House College in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, on 12 February. He died two days later at Kettering General Hospital.

Following an inquest into the 17-year-old’s death, a senior coroner recorded a conclusion of suicide. In the record of inquest, Prof Catherine Mason said: “Mr Phromthep was not known to mental health services, and it is not known why he took the actions that he did.

“It could not have been foreseen or prevented. The police investigation has found no evidence of third-party involvement or suspicious circumstances.”

Known as Dom, he had previously gained worldwide fame as the captain of The Wild Boars football team, or Moo Pa in Thai. He and his teammates became trapped in caves after a sudden storm caused flooding which blocked the exit.
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A victim of cruelty to my mind. Taking a boy from his home environment in a remote corner of Thailand and placing him in an alien school environment in the middle of England is really quite shocking. Even professional clubs in the UK only allow players to go abroad on loan when the age and maturity of the players is right for their development, and then to secure and supported accommodation, in a similar environment. King Power were behind this. They should be ashamed of themselves. 

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The Times have reported this today. Very sad.

Hollywood got a happy ending — then a Thai cave boy killed himself
How the military junta failed to prioritise Duangphet Phromthep’s welfare over its push for good publicity

For a few weeks in 2018, Duangphet “Dom” Phromthep became one of the most famous people in the world, as captain of the Thai boys’ football team trapped in a flooded cave.

In the year following their incredible rescue, Duangphet, who had his 13th birthday while in the cave, was paraded in front of the world’s media by a government keen to capitalise on the operation’s feelgood factor.

Subsequently he received a football scholarship to a British boarding school, but at the age of 17 was discovered hanging in his room in February. He died two days later. An inquest last week ruled that he had died by suicide.

A team-mate of Duangphet’s on the Wild Boars who had also been rescued from the cave had continued to talk to him in Britain, and revealed he had been stressed over the notoriously difficult International English Language Testing System (Ielts) exam.

Days before Duangphet left Thailand for the UK, in August last year, he told The Times that he felt uneasy about all the attention and instead directed praise towards his rescuers.
Dr Rebecca Syed, a senior clinical research fellow at Oxford University specialising in child psychiatry, gave advice to on-the-ground mental health workers during the rescue. She had urged the government to keep the boys away from a frenzied press that was bidding for the media rights to their story.

Instead, the children were subjected to a global tour that included being made to clamber through a 33ft-long replica of the cave in front of the world’s media in a shopping mall in Bangkok.

Duangphet was awarded a scholarship by Brooke House College, in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, and upended to a foreign land where, according to Syed, he had notoriety or value because of his trauma.

After his death his body was not repatriated and his mother had to watch his funeral in the UK over a video feed before a box containing his ashes was sent back to Thailand.

Even while the 12 boys and their coach were still trapped, the Tourism Authority of Thailand had announced plans to turn the site, Tham Luang, into a travel destination. A cottage industry sprang up soon after.

Media outlets fought for the rights to the boys’ story, with Netflix securing the contract to produce a drama series and Ron Howard directing a film, Thirteen Lives, which was released last year.

Initially Thai officials followed a recommendation made by Syed that the boys — who had endured an 18-day ordeal after the early monsoon season trapped them in the cave during a day trip — should be left alone.

After one team interview with a Thai broadcaster, they announced a six-month ban preventing media access, enforced by a governmental task force called the creative media committee.

However, the feelgood factor brought by the rescue — despite the death of a Thai navy diver during the operation — came at a favourable time for the junta, which had taken power in a 2014 coup, and it called for a long-delayed election to take place in 2019. The boys were sent by the creative media committee to Argentina, the US, the UK and Japan for a media tour.

After fierce bidding for the media rights, the boys’ families were said to have been promised three million baht (about £69,000) each. The amount the government received has never been disclosed.

Syed, who lived in Bangkok at the time, said: “I was quite strong in my advice that they should be left alone but understand that this was difficult to enforce in a rural place.

“I said: ‘Allow these boys to use their usual support networks and return to their lives, communities and friendship groups’. The strategy is watchful waiting, to allow use of their usual coping strategies and skills and watch very much in the background, then if problems do start to emerge, we can intervene with an evidence-based approach.

“Most of the time, especially with non-interpersonal trauma, such as natural disasters, it’s not the trauma itself but the response to it that might be more problematic.

“At the time, the international media were pouring into the country with rumours of suitcases of cash and being quite aggressive in their approach to the families. I think the government were put in a difficult position and they thought: ‘If the media is going to be so aggressive then we should try and manage it.’ ”

Duangphet joined the Wild Boars as an eight-year-old striker and dreamt of playing for his country.

After the rescue his football mentor, Kiatisuk “Zico” Senamuang, Thailand’s former national captain, arranged the scholarship to Britain through his charity, the Zico Foundation.

Delayed for two years by Covid, Duangphet set off in September last year. Before leaving, during a press call with the foundation, The Times’s reporter was told by Duangphet that he didn’t want to discuss the cave.

Appearing shy and speaking in Thai, he said the move made him feel anxious but he believed he could adapt. He said his life had changed as he now had many followers on social media but added that he was uneasy with all the attention, saying: “I’m just the one who got rescued. The work was all done by the rescuers. It’s not my place to be praised.”

Before leaving he asked for advice from Adul Samon, the only Wild Boar who spoke English at the time of their rescue and who was then studying in the US.

Adul told The Australian that the team were shocked by his death. “It was really hard to accept because I’d just talked to him,” he said. “What could have happened to him?”

Duangphet had continued to reach out to Adul for advice from Britain, and the two had talked in the weeks before he died. He was stressed about the Ielts exam, Adul said.

“The minute I heard that I was like: ‘No way, this is so hard, Dom. You just got there.’ I knew his English level and how hard the Ielts test is, so I was surprised the school didn’t know Dom’s English wasn’t ready.

“I guess it must have been a very difficult time for him. He had to adjust to the environment, new team-mates, the language.”

A clinical psychologist in Chiang Rai who was part of the team that saw the boys after the rescue, providing regular follow-ups for two years then annual checks, said Duangphet never liked the spotlight.

The clinician, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Dom never wanted to be outstanding, never wanted to be in public focus. He didn’t like all the attention or people asking about him. He felt his privacy was being invaded.

“Nobody can say it was a mistake [for him to be given the scholarship]. We still don’t know what happened in the days before he ended his life.” They added that his family still had not received the phone he was using in the UK.
His mother, Noy, told The Australian: “If I could turn back time I would not allow him to go because he was happy in Chiang Rai.

“I asked the coach if Dom would need to study English before he left and he said, ‘No, they only need vocabulary for football, not for class.’”

On February 12 Duangphet was discovered unconscious in his room and taken to Kettering General Hospital. With a doctor holding a phone to his ear, his mother told him she loved him and whispered Buddhist prayers, but her son could not be revived.

According to The Australian, promised help to bring Duangphet’s body home did not materialise and the family could not afford tickets to Britain or the cost of repatriating his body.

When the school offered to conduct a funeral, his mother accepted.

Syed added: “I feel utterly sick that there was money for the scholarship but no one found the money to fly his body home to his family amidst this background of huge sums of money being traded for media rights.

“I don’t know much about the support the academy offered. They knew he had been through a traumatic experience and had been taken out of his community and away from his family to a foreign place with a different language and culture, to play sport at a different level than he was used to. They had a responsibility to make sure he was properly supported.”

Regarding the funeral, the school said that it “worked closely with the Royal Thai Embassy and other agencies to enable the family’s wishes to be carried out ... before his body was repatriated to Thailand, where the family’s funeral occurred”.

Ian Smith, principal of Brooke House College, said: “Our entire college community remains united in grief with Dom’s family, friends and former team-mates. As a college, the health, wellbeing and welfare of our students is our absolute priority. The coroner also acknowledged the entire college community for the high quality of our student care, welfare and safeguarding, and noted this tragic incident sadly could not have been foreseen or prevented.

“We have robust safeguarding systems in place which enable us to provide appropriate support for students when needed, and we keep these systems under constant review so that we can do everything possible to provide the necessary support to every child.

“Dom will always remain a part of the Brooke House family and will be hugely missed.”