A rice gesture, despite the risk
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A rice gesture, despite the risk

Farmers sacrifice their land to help save kids, and the nation will never forget it

A farmer looks at his flooded farmland due to water drained from Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
A farmer looks at his flooded farmland due to water drained from Tham Luang cave in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Even though his 12 rai of paddy, the only source of income for his family, are now submerged and severely damaged by all the water being frantically pumped out from flooded Tham Luang cave during a mission to rescue 12 boys and their coach, Pairoj Jan-in, a farmer who lives nearby, is delighted and proud of his small but significant contribution to battling the rescue operation's main enemy -- water.

"Rice can be grown again, but the lives of 13 people cannot be brought back. Being a father and grandfather myself, I'm as worried about the well-being of these boys as if they were my own kids. I want them to be rescued safely as soon as possible," said the 60-year-old.

Mr Pairoj is one of over 100 farmers who are sacrificing their farmland to help the rescue bid.

Pairoj Jan-in has sacrificed 12 rai of paddy to help with the water-drainage efforts. He is one of over 100 farmers who have offered up their land.

According to authorities, the diverted water has flooded more than 1,400 rai of farmland in four tambons of Chiang Rai's Mae Sai District -- Pong Pha, Pong Ngam, Si Mueang Chum and Ban Dai.

Nineteen high-powered pumps have now been installed inside the cave to reduce the water level, which has been coming down by 1cm per hour.

More than 128 million litres have been sucked out of the 10km-long cave and flooded lowlands surrounding the area since Monday. The excess water has been funnelled into nearby fields, streams and hastily dug wells.

Nual Patukarn, 66, another farmer in tambon Pong Pha, said this unnatural flood cost him more than 250,000 baht overnight. However he was not upset and voluntarily let his farm be flooded to help save the young football team who have been trapped for nearly two weeks almost 1km underground.

"I'm not saying the money doesn't matter, but money should not be the most important thing in life. I believe other farmers in the area feel the same way," he said. "We're all focused on the same thing: getting the boys back. Everything else comes second."

The Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry said it plans to compensate all of the farmers.

Nual: Lost 250,000 baht overnight

It has also instructed the Department of Rice to assist them with the use of proper farming technology after the water has subsided, and urgently assess the damage to help them deal with rice seedlings.

Deputy director-general of the Rice Department Suwat Jearakongman said some of the crops on the damaged farms that were in an early stage of cultivation can be replanted with other types of rice that are more resistant to the cold climate and less sensitive to light. Other techniques can be implemented to maintain the quality of rice during the harvest season, he added.

Somsak Saichuen, 52, a rice farmer in tambon Pong Ngam, said officials from the Chiang Rai Provincial Agricultural Office have already visited his farm to survey the situation and provided assistance.

"They have promised to pay 1,000 baht per rai as compensation. Although that amount may not cover all the damage, it's still better than nothing. I think this is the time when everyone needs to show a spirit of dedication and sacrifice," he said.

A farmer in tambon Pong Ngam in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district has a close look at his rice now inundated by water pumped out of Tham Luang cave. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Clouds enshroud part of Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non Natural Park, where Tham Luang cave is located, fuelling fears of more flooding in the cave from a storm expected this weekend. Patipat Janthong

Oxygen tanks stacked in front of the entrance to Tham Luang cave provide crucial life support for teams of rescuers finding ways to bring the 12 footballers and their coach out of the cave. Patipat Janthong

An oxygen tank is carried by a soldier to divers in Tham Luang cave, who now face fresh worry over oxygen levels now the cave is occupied by more people. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Muddy water flows down a slope as rescuers continue to drain floodwater from Tham Luang cave. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Another water pump is carried to Tham Luang cave to increase drainage capability, a key measure to pave the way to bring the 12 footballers and their coach out of the cave. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Third Army soldiers wade through water in Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district to back up Navy Seals, making sure water pumps and electrical equipment work smoothly in the cave complex. Royal Thai Army

Pairoj: 'Rice can be grown again'

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