Mr Tunya Nititham, director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said today the Tham Luang cave which was the central point of the rescue operations had sustained extensive damages which could not be assessed yet because the cave is now fully flooded up to its entrance.
He disclosed that several equipment and materials used for rescue operations, such as electric wires had been left behind in the cave, adding that the cave’s surrounding areas had been bored with holes to drain out ground water and paved to make landing for helicopters and cave walls punched to divert water flow.
He said he ordered the forest park to be closed indefinitely and off-limits to all unauthorized persons until rehabilitation work to restore the park back to its natural condition or close to its original condition is completed “which may take months or years.”
Rehabilitation plans which include short-term, medium-term and long-term plans are being worked out before they are to be submitted to the minister of natural resources and environment together with request for funding for consideration.
The short-term plan will cover safety measures which include the installation of CCTV systems at the cave and at other tourist attractions in the area as well as improvement of lighting inside and outside the cave.
Asked about the proposal that the Tham Luang forest park be upgraded as a national park, Mr Tunya said public hearings would be required to gauge the opinions of the people who have been living around the forest park.
He cautioned that, once it is upgraded into a national park, more restrictions will have to be imposed, including the number of visitors to the cave.But he said he was not in a hurry about the proposal.