It was a pleasure last week to meet with Vernon Unsworth MBE – the unsung hero behind the Wild Boars rescue in the caves of Northern Thailand in June and July of 2018.
Vernon Unsworth MBE
He had a song dedicated to him and I am sure that this is the forerunner of a book that will recount his contribution to this amazing story. If it were not for him and his recommendation that the Thais call for immediate help from British caving experts and other specialists from around the world, then this story would have had a very different and tragic ending.
The real story was that the Thai government actually recognised the contribution that a simple Englishman from Lancashire, who had come here in his waning years to live as a retiree in the Land of Smiles, could actually make a positive contribution to his chosen country of occupation. He had met his wife and settled down far from the bars and the beaches of Pattaya and Phuket and just wanted to live the rest of his life in peace.
Presumably Vern, like thousands of others from various countries across the world, could have gone to many other countries and invested his life savings, his pension and spent the last chapters of his life anywhere… but he chose Thailand.
One assumes that he has been hounded by immigration, with TM30’s and the ever changing regulations and laws, has to report his whereabouts every 90 days. Gets treated like a second class citizen, told to wait in line and will always be reminded that he has temporary status in this country. Despite his financial and personal contribution to Thailand’s welfare and economy. He like many others has to contend with the ingrained xenophobia that we all meet here every day.
An unassuming chap, obviously not one that revels in the limelight, when he heard of the tragedy that 13 young Thais had ventured, somewhat naively, into underground caves after football practice. He dropped everything and went to see if he could help – it is a natural response for us from the West. And we are not going with our smartphones in hand like so many others here.
Luckily for the Thai authorities this was an expat that knew the area, the caves and what he was doing underground. Unafraid and putting his own personal safety to the back of his mind he waded into the waist high water, which by sheer coincidence he was used to as he and friends had explored the caves just recently.
There were many that took the applause for what resulted in an international news story followed all over the world and I would urge you all to go and see The Cave – the excellent film/documentary that Tom Waller released on the rescue. I think that you will see a true account of actually what happened in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex over the 18 days. Vern did not take part in the film, although asked, but he did what he did because he could, and because he cared about the country that he now calls home.
It’s just a pity that Thailand does not realise what a positive contribution that so many others like Vern could and do make to Thailand’s economy and the quality of life here.