CHIANG RAI, Thailand — Twelve Thai boys and their soccer coach who were rescued from a flooded cave are recovering well from their ordeal and will be discharged from hospital next week, health minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said on Saturday.
The last of the 12-member "Wild Boars" soccer team and their coach were brought out of the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, safely ending a perilous rescue and evoking international relief and joy.
They've been in hospital since then.
In a video played at a news conference on Saturday the group appeared well, sitting up in bed and thanking their rescuers.
"I am in good health now," said one of the boys, a 14-year-old nicknamed Note.
"Thanks for saving me."
The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach had planned to explore the cavern complex for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
Two British divers found them on July 2, squatting on a mound in a flooded chamber several miles inside the complex.
Then the problem became how to get them back out through the tunnels, some completely full of fast-flowing flood water.
All 13 were brought to safety over the course of a three-day rescue, organized by Thai navy SEALs and an international team of cave-diving experts.
Piyasakol told reporters the health of all 13 had improved. Some had pneumonia when they were brought out of the cave but were recovering, he said.
All will be discharged from hospital in the northern town of Chiang Rai on Thursday, he said.
Some of the group had regained weight, and their appetites, in hospital, Piyasakol said.
"I want to have crispy pork rice and barbecue pork rice," 15-year-old Pipat Photi said in the video.
"I want pork knuckle rice," said 13-year-old Duangpetch Promtep. "Thank you for all the moral support."
Others said they were craving sushi.
But while the group is in good health, they still face challenges.
One concern has been how they will deal with the fame, given the huge attention both from within Thailand and beyond, on the case.
The story is already set for a retelling by Hollywood, with two production companies looking to put together movies about the boys and their rescue.
"We need to prepare both the children and their families for the attention they will receive when they come out," Piyasakol said.
He warned relatives of the boys to resist giving interviews to media over fears they could have a negative impact on their mental health.
"Everyone has worked well together to bring the children out. We worked well together then and we should work well together now so the children can recover physically and mentally as they grow up," Piyasakol said.