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BANGKOK, Thailand The Thai government hosted a banquet to thank those who joined the rescue of 12 teenage footballers and their coach from a flooded cave in northern Thailand in July.

Those involved in the rescue including international rescuers, volunteers and media were granted with a letter of thanks on Thursday with King Maha Vajiralongorn's signature.

"I owe my deepest thanks to every single individual and every single body having a part in this mission. Such operation could not been achieved unless there is the unity of effort exerted by all in a discipline manner, supported by great knowledge, dedication and sacrifice," the king said in the letter.

The king spoke highly of experts from abroad who travelled long distance and the mass media both from Thailand and beyond who provided fully operational support as well as the public encouragement and concern that have given helping hands in complete disregard of self-interest.

The feast, catering for more than 7,000 guests, was held at Bangkok's Royal Plaza, a large public square in the heart of the city's old quarter. It was themed "United as One."

Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said at the dinner that Thailand has learned great lessons from this operation, which will be helpful in improving works in areas including warning systems, situation assessment and preparation of emergency.

Adule, 14, on behalf of the saved young footballers, expressed their heartfelt thanks to everyone who devoted efforts for the rescue.

"We will repay yours efforts by concentrating on our study and will grow up to be good citizens of Thailand and the world. We promise to do the best of our ability," he said.

The boys spoke at a public exhibition in one of Bangkok's largest malls before they became gusts of honor at the gala. They shared with the public their cave story that has gripped the world for nearly three weeks.

The 12 boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their coach, 25, went missing in a cave in Chiang Rai province on June 23. They were located after a nine-day search by rescuers from more than 10 countries.

A team of more than 100 expert divers worked together to extricate the boys out of the cave. They guided the trapped footballers through darkness and inundated passageways out of the cave.

The process included a mixture of walking, wading, climbing and diving along guide ropes. A former Thai navy SEAL diver died in the rescue operation.

All the 13 people were rescued by July 10. The boys returned to school in early August.

Source: NAM News Network