Foreign divers return from Tham Luang Nang Non cave on July 1, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

  • International rescuers were given diplomatic immunity ahead of a rescue attempt that saved 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach from a cave in Thailand last week
  • Two Australian divers, Craig Challen and Richard Harris, were given diplomatic immunity in case anything went wrong during the rescue operation.
  • International volunteers have also reportedly been given a 5-year special residency card that would ordinarily cost about R198,900 ($15,000).


International rescuers were given diplomatic immunity ahead of the rescue mission which saved 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach from a cave in Thailand last week

An official source confirmed to Australian television program Four Corners that two Australian divers, vet Craig Challen and anaesthetist Richard Harris, were given diplomatic immunity in case anything went wrong during the rescue operation.

The immunity was reportedly granted after discussions between Australian and Thai government officials, meaning the two divers couldn't be held legally responsible for issues that arose during the mission, including the possible deaths of those being rescued. Business Insider contacted Australia's foreign affairs department about the claim, but the department said it couldn't comment on the specifics of Thailand's rescue operation.

See also: The British diver from the Thai cave rescue who was called a 'pedo' by Elon Musk says he's considering suing the billionaire

The risks involved in the rescue mission were significant as a loose face mask or lack of oxygen could have caused deaths during each rescue dive. Harris told Four Corners that the 12 boys and their coach were sedated ahead of the dive through the cave's winding chambers.

"They did have some sedation to keep them calm, because the worst thing that could happen would be one of those guys panicking," he said. Each boy was held by a diver on the way out and, if they panicked, there was a real risk they could have killed their rescuer.

Harris, the doctor who medically assessed the boys and gave the green light for the rescue, described in a post on Facebook how complex the rescue mission was and thanked the Thai and international volunteers, including divers from around the world.

"The pressure that was put on these guys was immense and they never dropped the ball for a second," Harris wrote.

"Craig and I have had a spotlight on our efforts and we want to make everyone realise that while we might have become the face of this rescue for some reason, everyone should know that the role we played was no more or less important than all the many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people I have mentioned," he added. 

Veena Thoopkrajae, a local journalist who was covering the rescue, said on Thursday that foreign volunteers who helped the rescue operation were also going to be given 5-year Thailand Elite Cards, a special residence visa that would ordinarily cost about R198,900 ($15,000). Versions of the card include a concierge programme, driving licenses, work permits, complimentary airport transfers, and 24 spa treatments and golfing trips a year.

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