12 Boys and Their Soccer Coach Rescued From Thai Cave

A huge international effort brought the boys out through the winding and partly submerged passageways

 Authorities concluded over the weekend that it was optimal time to begin rescuing 12 members of a youth soccer team and their coach.
 Four Thai Navy SEALs give a thumbs on Tuesday up after completing the rescue mission inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand.
 Journalists take a selfie after a news conference near Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, on Tuesday.
 Onlookers celebrate as ambulances transport the last rescued schoolboys and their coach to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on Tuesday in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
 A Royal Thai police ambulance evacuates a cave-trapped boy to the hospital after he was rescued from the Tham Luang cave complex.
 Onlookers wave as an ambulance carrying rescued schoolboys leaves a military airport in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
 Thai hospital staff and a police officer are seen during a news conference on the condition of some of the boys after they were rescued from Tham Luang cave.
 A helicopter transports rescued boys toward Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital on July 10.
 Rescue personnel walk inside the Tham Luang cave complex during the mission to evacuate the boys.
 A Thai well-wisher pins a note for the boys and their soccer coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave since June 23 in northern Thailand.
 An ambulance carrying one of the boys rescued Sunday headed to a hospital in Chiang Rai. Authorities said it could take two to three days to free all 12 boys and their coach.
 Police and military personnel use umbrellas to shield a stretcher near a helicopter and an ambulance at a military airport in Chiang Rai, Thailand, on Monday, as rescue operations continued.
 Rescuers in Thailand transporting a rescued youth on Sunday, when the first four of the 13 people trapped in a flooded cave were brought out.
 People are seen at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, where the first four Thai schoolboys who were rescued from the flooded cave are being treated, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, on Monday.
 Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission, at a news conference on Monday after resuming efforts to extract the youth. .
 Thai military medical personnel run inside a restricted area as preparations are made to transport the first boys to a local hospital.
 Onlookers watch and cheer as ambulances deliver boys rescued from the cave to a hospital.
 An ambulance carries the first boy to be sent for helicopter evacuation after being rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave.
 Rescue workers cheer along the main road connecting Tham Luang Nang Non cave, as the first two ambulances carrying two rescued boys pass by.
 An ambulance, believed to be carrying some of the rescued members of a youth soccer team, hurries past journalists.
Four Thai Navy SEALs give a thumbs on Tuesday up after completing the rescue mission inside a cave where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped since June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand.
1 of 20

MAE SAI, Thailand—Rescue divers freed the last of 12 boys from a youth soccer team and their coach from a dark, flooded cave in northern Thailand on Tuesday, capping a daring international mission that captured the world’s imagination.

The effort united a diverse team of global experts in the fields of emergency rescue and cave diving for what many said was one of the most challenging such operations ever performed, a puzzle whose successful outcome will be case-studied for years.

Thai Navy SEALs said on Tuesday they guided the last group of four boys and their coach to safety from the depths of Tham Luang cave after more than two weeks underground, joining the other eight rescued on Sunday and Monday.

News of the evacuation echoed across the globe—with President Donald Trump calling it “a beautiful moment”—and drew cheers from hundreds of local residents and reporters near the site.

“We have been praying at so many temples for this,” said Songkran Somboonchote, a friend of the team’s coach, who had been closely following live television broadcasts on the rescue.

Among the complications in guiding out the 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team through the jagged paths of a semi-submerged cave to the entrance about three miles away was that none had scuba dived before and many couldn’t swim. They were guided out one-by along a rope and with oxygen tanks, braving strong currents and squeezing through flooded spaces as low as two feet high.

Boys Saved From Cave Are Healthy, Thai Officials Say

Two of the boys rescued from a flooded cave in northern Thailand may be suffering from lung infections, but overall the group is “healthy and smiling,” Thai health officials said. Still, they’re expected to be kept in the hospital for observation for at least seven days. Photo: AP

To calm their nerves, the boys were given anti-anxiety medicines for the journey, said Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, and dark glasses to protect their eyes when they emerged from the stark underground darkness.

Despite their ordeal, the first eight boys freed appeared in good spirits, doctors said, and had joked with the prime minister when he visited them at a nearby hospital on Monday night.

Thousands of volunteers contributed to the effort, including cave explorers and divers from Europe, U.S. military personnel, oil company engineers and scores of locals. Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi and former Brazilian star Ronaldo sent messages of support, while World Cup officials offered to take the boys to the tournament’s final in Russia on July 15.

Winding Cave Complex


base camp

Tham Luang cave, overhead view

1,000 feet

200 meters




Stretches between

the base camp and

soccer team are

winding, narrow

and submerged

Cross sections

20 feet



5 meters

Cross section

of entrance

Approximate location where team was found


to scale

Note: Cross sections show view looking into the cave.

Sources: French Federation of Speleology, surveys taken in 1986 and 1987 (cave path and cross sections); Thai government and staff reports (location details)

This photo, tweeted by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, shows efforts to rescue trapped members of the soccer team inside the cave.
This photo, tweeted by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, shows efforts to rescue trapped members of the soccer team inside the cave. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ELON MUSK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

That is unlikely because the boys will be required to stay in a hospital in the nearby city of Chiang Rai for a week of recovery, where they are being held in quarantine to prevent the spread of any possible infection, officials said. Two of them show signs of pneumonia. Families are only permitted to view the boys through a glass screen.

“We will allow them to watch [the World Cup] on television,” said Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, a senior official at Thailand’s health ministry.

Rescuers walked toward the entrance to the Thai cave complex where four members of a youth soccer team and their coach remained trapped. A mission to rescue those remaining began Tuesday.
Rescuers walked toward the entrance to the Thai cave complex where four members of a youth soccer team and their coach remained trapped. A mission to rescue those remaining began Tuesday. PHOTO: SAKCHAI LALIT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Medical officials said the boys would also have to forego some of the favorite dishes they requested, including a spicy dish of pork stir-fried with chili and basil and bread with chocolate spread. Instead, they are being fed a carefully-controlled diet of more easily-digestible foods (doctors relented and gave them a small bit of chocolate bread.)

The Wild Boars, a close-knit group of soccer fans from the Mae Sai area aged between 11 and 16, ventured into the six-mile long cave system on the afternoon of June 23 with their 25-year-old coach after a regular weekend practice match. Leaving their bicycles and bags near the entrance, they went further inside to explore, shrugging off warnings that the cave was prone to flooding during the rainy season, which typically runs from June to November.

Video footage of the boys’ bike ride to the cave showed that it was initially dry. But heavy rains soon lashed the jagged limestone hills beyond, triggering flash floods that cut them off from the entrance and forced them to find refuge in an elevated area several miles from the exit.

There they lasted nearly 10 days with only a handful of snacks and a little water. When that supply was exhausted they licked cave walls for moisture until two expert British rescue divers found them.

Rescue organizers then spent an agonizing six days planning the rescue. They cycled through plans that included sending in food and medical supplies to tide them over for the rest of the rainy season to drilling down through mountain to retrieve them. Those two options were discarded in part because of worsening air quality in the cave and because drilling teams were unable to locate the correct cavern despite digging more than 100 pilot holes.

When worsening weather threatened to bring more heavy rains and flood their space, authorities took the calculated risk of fitting by the boys with breathing equipment and guiding them out through the cave.

Experts consider cave diving one of the riskiest forms of scuba diving. When open-water divers get into trouble, they can return to the surface. Cave divers must either return or forge ahead until they find an opening. The mission required meticulous preparation, concentration and the ability to remain calm. Caves—unlike open water—are often pitch black and full of jagged rock formations. Divers can easily get lost or miscalculate their air supplies.

It’s a challenge even for experienced divers; one former Thai Navy SEAL diver, 38-year-old Saman Gunan, died last week when he ran out of air while placing extra gas tanks inside the cave.

Some caves, including Tham Luang, require divers to clamber up rock formations with heavy gas cylinders and scuba gear. Walls and rocks in narrow passages can limit movement and damage sensitive equipment. Visibility can be limited to mere inches, requiring divers to feel their way forward through the murky water.

“This cave… is so unpredictable that nobody dives in here. Period,” said Ben Reymenants, a cave diver who participated in the rescue effort. “It’s a good test for your nerves.”

Tech billionaire Elon Musk, whose engineers devised a mini-submarine as a backup plan to extract the boys, congratulated the “outstanding rescue team” on Twitter.

In all, more than 100 divers and rescue workers took part in the effort to rescue the soccer team, pulling out the boys in batches of four until the final day, when they also brought out coach Ekkapol Chantawong.

Family and friends say Mr. Ekkapol, who the boys affectionately call Coach Ek, played a pivotal role in keeping up the boys’ spirits. A former novice at a Buddhist temple, authorities said he guided the boys through meditation sessions to help slow their breathing and calm their nerves during the 10 days before they discovered.

Though the psychological impact from being trapped for so long underground could be considerable, experts said the boys’ optimism and good humor could help their recovery.

“The children on the team have the advantage in this situation compared to the coach,” said Jacob Hyde, director of a laboratory at the University of Denver who studies extreme environments. “The ability to bounce back is most likely going to be better, given the general optimistic outlook of most kids and teenagers.”

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at jake.watts@wsj.com, Phred Dvorak at phred.dvorak@wsj.com and Wilawan Watcharasakwet at wilawan.watcharasakwet@wsj.com


Afghan asylum seeker deported from Germany commits suicide

An Afghan man deported from Germany has been found dead in a hotel room in Kabul after apparently committing suicide. The case highlights the adverse circumstances faced by Afghan returnees.

Afghanistan abgeschobene Flüchtlinge aus Deutschland kommen in Kabul an (Getty Images/AFP/W. Kohsar)

A failed Afghan asylum seeker deported from Germany on July 4, 2018, killed himself in a Kabul guesthouse on Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told DW. The 23-year-old man was staying at a hotel used by the IOM as temporary accommodation for returnees.

“We can confirm that a 23-year-old Afghan, who was deported to Afghanistan along with 68 other Afghans on July 4, 2018, killed himself on Tuesday,” Masood Ahmadi from the IOM said.

Read more: Afghan refugees in Pakistan face mass deportation

The deportee, who has not been identified by officials, was waiting to travel to western Herat Province, according to Ahmadi. An official investigation into the incident is underway.

Mirwis Hashimi, another deportee from Germany staying at the same guesthouse, was among the first people to reach the room where the man hanged himself. “The whole building smelled bad. The police were called. When we went upstairs we saw that he had hanged himself,” he told DW.

“His body had swollen and smelled bad. It was in very bad condition,” he added.

Sent to an alien home

In 2016, the German government signed a deal with Kabul to repatriate Afghans who had failed to obtain asylum, and began expelling people in December 2016. So far this year, Germany has deported 148 Afghans to areas it considers safe.

Germany had initially said it would deport failed asylum seekers who had failed to provide documents about their identity or committed a crime. German chancellor Angela Merkel recently stated that Berlin was no longer limiting deportations to Afghanistan to people convicted of crimes.

Read more: Calls to rethink German refugee policy on Afghanistan

In the present case, however, authorities in the German city of Hamburg, where the Afghan asylum seeker had lived prior to his deportation, confirmed that the deportee in question had been convicted of theft, attempted bodily harm, resisting law enforcement officials and violation of the narcotics act. He was also charged with committing robbery and grievous bodily harm, a spokesperson for Hamburg’s foreigners office was quoted by Germany’s DPA news agency as saying.

While Merkel’s decision to boost deportations to Afghanistan made her conservative coalition partners in the government happy, critics say Berlin is sending Afghans back to difficult conditions and with no proper measures in place to support returnees.

The IOM provides temporary accommodation for Afghan deportees and helps them travel to a different province if they choose not to stay in Kabul. Hashimi, however, told DW that the support provided was not sufficient. “We are provided accommodation for just 15 days. They will ask us to leave after that. This is very difficult for me because I don’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

“It is a scandalous act that Germany is even deporting Afghans who had been living in Germany for years to a government in Afghanistan which is already overburdened with the returnees from Iran and Pakistan,” German refugee organization Pro Asyl told DW.

Some of the deportees have spent most of their lives living outside of Afghanistan before being deported. Many others have either sold or lost all their belongings to afford the trip to Germany. Going back to Afghanistan, they say, means they have to start from scratch in a country they fled long ago.

According to Pro Asyl, these asylum seekers find it difficult to rent an apartment or get a job after being sent back to Afghanistan.

DW | Politics


This is how German Interior Minister Horst describes today’s deportation of Afghan migrants:

Is Afghanistan safe?

The German government insists there are safe zones across war-ravaged Afghanistan where returnees could live in peace and security. Cities like Herat, Kabul and Balk are among these so-called safe zones. But the situation on the ground is different from the picture painted by Berlin, critics lament.

According to data released by the US government, the Taliban control 14 percent of Afghan districts while 30 percent more are contested between insurgents and Afghan security forces. Against this backdrop, Afghan asylum seekers contend that even if they were deported, they would have no other option but to again flee the conflict-stricken nation.

The German government, however, seems unconvinced. Recent comments made by the nation’s conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer seem to suggest that he will continue to push for more deportations to Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Seehofer finally got to present his migration “master plan,” a month after it was blocked at the last minute by Chancellor Merkel, precipitating a crisis in the German government that almost cost both of them their jobs.

Seehofer pointed out that the delayed release of his plans came on his 69th birthday, noting that this coincided with the deportation of 69 people to Afghanistan from Germany, quipping, “That was not on my order.”

Abdul Azim Sultani, who had lived in the southern German state of Bavaria for three years and was among the latest group of deportees, told DW that he was not sure where to go and if he could survive in Afghanistan. “I really cannot live here. They tell me to live in other provinces. No province is safe. There are suicide attacks in Kabul regularly,” Sultani said. “I don’t have anyone here to help me. I have nowhere to live,” he added.

Hussian Sirat and Waslat Hasrat Nazimi contributed to this story.


Thai Cave Rescue Live Updates: 8th Person Is Out



A harrowing operation is underway to rescue a group of 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand.Published OnCreditImage by Lillian Suwanrumpha/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By The New York Times

[UPDATED at 3:24 p.m. Eastern, July 9]

And then there were five.

A week after rescue divers emerged in a dark and flooded cave to discover that — against all odds — a missing team of Thai soccer players had somehow managed to survive 10 days of isolation, their rescue continued with astonishing rapidity.

On Monday, a day after the first four people were guided to freedom along a torturous underwater course, four more team members were rescued.

Here are the latest developments.

• Eight people are now out of the cave complex. The latest four extracted were taken to the hospital.

• The leader of the rescue operation said he was optimistic the remaining five team members could be brought out of the cave on Tuesday.

• New air tanks are being positioned along the escape route and guide ropes are being tightened.

The Times has reporters on the scene and will be providing updates regularly. Go here to see maps and diagrams of how the rescue is unfolding.

More survivors emerge from cave

An ambulance leaving the cave area on Monday, hours after the start of the second phase of an operation to rescue the boys started.CreditSakchai Lalit/Associated Press

Rescuers pulled four more team members from a flooded cave complex in Thailand on Monday, in a daring rescue that continued to defy the odds, bringing to eight the number rescued so far.

Five members of the group — which initially included 12 players and their coach — remained in the cavern where they took refuge from rising water. Narongsak Osottanakorn, the head of the search operation, said he hoped that they could all be brought out on Tuesday.

The four survivors rescued on Monday have all been hospitalized in Chiang Rai, the nearest large city, Mr. Narongsak said.

“All of them are safe and conscious,” he said.

Those rescues bring the total to eight, after two days of pulling team members from the cave. Twelve players of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were trapped in the flooded cave complex on June 23.

“2 days, 8 Boars,” said a message on the Thai Navy SEALS Facebook page.

Officials have declined to identify any of the people who have been rescued or those who remain in the cave.

One good sign for the next stage of the operation is that the pace of the rescue was considerably quicker on the second day. On Sunday, it took 11 hours to bring out four people. But on Monday, it took only nine hours to bring out the next four, he said.

He said that was in part because the divers had become more skilled in maneuvering through the cave’s flooded passageways while holding the boys below them. It also helped that more than 100 people participated in the operation, more than on the first day, he said.

Mr. Narongsak said he was optimistic about the chances of bringing out all of the remaining five on Tuesday.

“We think we will do it better and the success will be 100 percent,” he said.

Officials said that a new weir, or low dam, built outside the cave was helping to keep water levels relatively stable within. The weather was cooperating, too: After a day of torrential downpours on Sunday, things cleared up on Monday.

At the hospital in Chiang Rai Province, relatives of the rescued boys were not able to visit them in their rooms because of concerns about infection, Mr. Narongsak said.

Mongkol Boonpiam, one of the boys who was listed among the rescued on a Facebook messenger group used by some of the parents, was considered to have been the weakest of those trapped.

“We will be waiting for more good news,” said Rattana Maksuk, an administrator and teacher at the Mae Sai Prasitsart School, which is attended by six of the boys who were trapped in the cave complex.

— Hannah Beech, Muktita Suhartono and Richard C. Paddock, near Tham Luang Cave

Jubilation in the team’s hometown


Onlookers in Chiang Rai, Thailand, cheered as ambulances took survivors to the hospital on Monday.CreditLauren Decicca/Getty Images

In the town of Mae Sai, where the trapped boys’ soccer team is based, residents and family members were cheering the sound of every helicopter and ambulance they heard, in an uproar of celebration at the news that four boys had been taken out of the cave on Sunday.

“I am so happy!” said Kamon Chanthapun, an adviser to the team. “I was so worried because they are just children, stuck for so long in the dark.”

Young men rode in the back of flatbed trucks, cruising the streets and cheering.

Mae Sai is a town that thrives on border commerce. Some residents have relatives across the border in Myanmar, and thousands cross over from that country each day to work, trade or attend school in Thailand.

One of the boys in the cave, Adul Sam-on, is a student at the Ban Wiang Phan school here. Inside, students had written messages on heart-shaped sticky notes placed up in a big heart shape on a bulletin board with optimistic messages. “Hopefully our friend can come out safely,” read one.

Adul was the boy who spoke to British divers in English in the video that announced to the world that the team had finally been found, after 10 days stuck in the flooded Tham Luang Cave.

The head coach for the soccer team, Nopparat Khanthawong, who did not enter the cave with the others two weeks ago, said: “I’m happy that children are coming out. All I can do is to send my prayers and support to the children and rescuers.”

He added: “We don’t know the physical condition of the boys. Please keep them coming!”

— Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono, in Mae Sai

Why can’t the boys swim?

A Thai official has said that some members of the boys’ soccer team trapped in the flooded Tham Luang Cave network don’t know how to swim, further complicating the rescue effort.

That may surprise people from countries where swim lessons are a rite of passage for most children. But in Southeast Asia, not knowing how to swim is normal.

A key reason is that many mothers in the region believe that teaching their children to swim will increase the risk of them drowning, said Michael Linnan, the technical director at the Alliance for Safe Children, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that has worked extensively in the region.

Dr. Linnan said it was not uncommon to see rates of swimming in low- and middle-income countries that is “well below” 20 percent, even among sailors, fishermen and others who earn their living on the water.

Drowning is a leading cause of death among children in low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Unicef said in a 2012 report. Unlike in high-income countries, the report said, the danger to children typically comes not from swimming pools but from daily exposure to water and “spontaneous actions that put them at risk.”

In Thailand, the Health Ministry reported in 2014 that drowning was the primary cause of death among children under 15. It said an average of four children in Thailand died every day from drowning, a rate five to 15 times higher than those for developed countries.

Dr. Linnan, a former medical epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, said Thailand has made “enormous strides” in the last decade toward preventing child injury and morbidity. For example, he said, the government established a national day care program, a move that helped to prevent drownings among very young children.

But he said he hoped recent events at Tham Luang Cave would be a “teachable moment,” highlighting a need on a national scale for further efforts to prevent drowning.

“I hope that will be the silver lining in this cloud,” he said.

— Mike Ives in Hong Kong

Letters from the cave: “I’ll be back soon”


A letter from one of the trapped boys. “Don’t worry, we’re all strong,” he writes.CreditRoyal Thai Navy

One boy promised to do his chores when he gets home. Another asked for barbecued pork.

In letters home, written on water-stained paper and posted Saturday on the Thai Navy SEALs’ Facebook page, the trapped boys and their soccer coach sought to reassure their families that they were in good hands and in good spirits.

“Don’t worry about me,” wrote Ekkarat “Bew” Wongsookchan, 13. “I’ve been away for two weeks. I’ll help mom every day. I’ll be back soon.”

“I’m happy in here,” wrote Panumat “Mix” Saengdee, 14. “The SEAL team takes very good care of us.”

The boys’ parents had written to them earlier. The letters, carried by divers making six-hour trips in each direction, are the first direct communication between the parents and their sons. Attempts to establish a phone line to the cavern where the boys are trapped have not yet been successful.

“Mom, Dad, I love you guys, and little sister Toi,” wrote Pipat “Nick” Poti, 15. “If I get out please take me to a pork barbecue place. I love you Dad, Mom.”

The boys’ coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, wrote to the parents as a group, promising to take care of them as best as he could. The parents had written to him earlier, assuring him that they did not blame him for the situation.

“Thank you all for the support,” the coach wrote. “I deeply apologize to the parents.”

He also wrote to his own family members — an aunt and his grandmother — asking them not to worry too much about him. “Aunty, can you please tell granny to prepare vegetable juice and pork snacks?” he wrote. “I’ll eat them when I get out. Love you all.”

— Muktita Suhartono, at the Tham Luang Cave

Why a 15 percent oxygen level has rescuers worried

On Friday, a Thai Navy SEAL commander said the oxygen level in the boys’ cavern was about 15 percent and falling. That is a concern because levels below 16 percent can cause oxygen depletion, a condition known as hypoxia.

Under normal conditions, the air people breathe consists of about 21 percent oxygen, 78 percent nitrogen and one percent argon and other gases, including carbon dioxide. When the mix changes, humans can feel a range of health effects, subtle and otherwise.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration reports that hypoxia may cause headaches, nausea, drowsiness, rapid breathing, slurred speech and “diminished thinking capacity,” among other problems. It can also result in incapacitation or, in extreme cases, death.

Hypoxia can be a concern in high-altitude regions, or when a plane loses air pressure.

The air in caves tends to be good, and cavers would typically worry about high concentrations of carbon monoxide, not low concentrations of oxygen, said Dinko Novosel, the president of the European Cave Rescue Association.

But Mr. Novosel said an oxygen concentration of 15 percent or less in the Tham Luang Cave network would be “really problematic” for anyone trapped inside. It would allow them to survive, but make even basic activities difficult, he said.

Raymond Cheung, a professor of neurology at the University of Hong Kong, said the specific health effects would depend on a range of factors. Assuming the 12 trapped boys and their coach are healthy and not exerting themselves, “because they’re near sea level and the pressure is normal, then they should be all right” for the time being, Professor Cheung said.

But strenuous activity in such a low-oxygen environment could cause severe problems, especially for anyone with a pre-existing heart or lung condition, he said.

On Saturday, Mr. Narongsak, the official leading the rescue operation, said that at one point the oxygen level had been so low in a chamber where many rescuers were working that nonessential personnel were sent out of it.

He also said that rescuers were concerned about the level of carbon dioxide in the cavern where the boys are trapped.

People naturally release carbon dioxide when they exhale. Professor Cheung said that the carbon-dioxide concentration in air was generally no more than about 0.2 percent, and that a concentration of more than about 5 percent would cause a person to feel breathless. At about 10 percent, he said, a person would become unresponsive.

— Mike Ives in Hong Kong, and Richard C. Paddock at the Tham Luang Cave

Thai diver dies, running out of air in cave


Air tanks are being delivered to the cavern where the soccer team is awaiting rescue. Oxygen levels in the cavern are getting dangerously low.CreditRungroj Yongrit/EPA, via Shutterstock

A retired Thai Navy SEAL diver died in Tham Luang Cave when he ran out of air while underwater, the Thai authorities said on Friday.

The diver, a volunteer identified as Saman Gunan, 38, ran out of air while placing spare air tanks along the route to the cavern where the boys are trapped.

Mr. Saman ran into trouble at about 1 a.m. on Friday, and efforts to revive him were not successful, said Rear Adm. Arpakorn Yookongkaew, the Thai Navy SEAL commander.

The operation to rescue the boys is now focused on delivering air and running a communications line to the group’s location from a nearby cavern known as Chamber Three. The distance from there to the group is about 1,700 meters, officials say, and one part of the effort now is to run a hose across that distance to pump air into the team’s chamber.

[Tham Luang Cave is especially hard to navigate, professional divers say, pushing their abilities to the utmost — read our full story.]

For now, the only way to communicate between officials coordinating the rescue effort and the group in the cave is by messenger, a journey of about six hours one way.

Installing a communications line would facilitate any rescue operation and allow the boys to talk to their families.

Four Thai Navy SEALs, including a doctor, are with the boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old soccer coach.

A video message from a Chilean miner

One of the men rescued from a mine in Chile in 2010 sent a video message of hope this week to the trapped boys’ soccer team in Thailand.

“We are praying for each of you, for each of the families and for these children,” said Mario Sepulveda, who was the second of more than 30 miners pulled to safety in a specially built capsule after being trapped for more than two months, in a rescue televised around the world.

Mr. Sepulveda, who was nicknamed “Super Mario” for his exuberant exit from the rescue capsule, became a motivational speaker after the incident.

In the video released Wednesday, he said he wanted to send “a lot of strength to the authorities and the families of these 12 children who are underground.”

His message was echoed by others who went through the ordeal in Chile.

“They shouldn’t be ashamed to be scared,” Omar Reygadas, another miner, told The Associated Press earlier this week. “Because we were scared, too. Our tears also ran. Even as adult men, we cried.”

— Palko Karasz

Her fields have been flooded, but she approves


Mae Bua Chaicheun, 57, a rice farmer in Nong Oo Village, on Thursday.CreditRichard C. Paddock/The New York Times

Mae Bua Chaicheun, a rice farmer who lives near Tham Luang Cave, wanted to help in the search for the missing boys. So last week, she volunteered for five days at the rescue center, delivering drinking water to soldiers and helping clean up.

When she returned home to her village in the flatlands a few miles from the cave, she found that her fields were flooded with water that had been pumped from the caves in the effort to reach the 12 boys and their soccer coach.

She had already prepared the soil on her five acres and was about to plant rice. Now she has to start over.

But she is not concerned about that. Most importantly, the boys were found alive.

When she saw the news that the boys were found, she said she put her hands together in front of the TV and thanked Buddha.

“I had goose bumps,” she said.

She is one of dozens of farmers downstream from Tham Luang Cave whose fields have been flooded by the surplus water pumped out to reduce flood levels in the cavern.

The government is offering compensation to farmers whose land was flooded. In her case, that would have come to about $430, plus seed and fertilizer. But she said she didn’t want to add to the government’s burden in the midst of the search, and did not register.

“I am more than willing to have my rice fields flooded as long as the children are safe,” she said. “The boys are like my children.”

— Richard C. Paddock, in Nong Oo Village

Experience runs deep for British divers


The British rescue diver John Volanthen outside the cave last week.CreditLinh Pham/Getty Images

When two British divers first reached a trapped boys’ soccer team in a flooded cave in Thailand on Monday, they may have experienced some déjà vu.

The divers, Richard Stanton and John Volanthen, are members of the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Team, one of 15 such teams in the United Kingdom. And this isn’t the first time they’ve been flown to another country for a cave-rescue mission.

In 2004, Mr. Stanton, a retired firefighter from Coventry, was involved in the successful rescue in Mexico of six Britons who had been trapped in a cave for more than a week — one of the best-known cave rescues in recent history.

According to CoventryLive, a local news site, Mr. Stanton helped persuade one of the British men in Mexico, who was scared of water and had never dived before, to make a nearly 600-foot dive as part of the escape.

Six years later, Mr. Stanton and Mr. Volanthen, an information technology consultant, were flown to France in an attempt to rescue Eric Establie, a climber who had gone missing in a cave. They found his body about 3,000 feet from the entrance.

North Korean Nuclear Talks Are Thrown Off Balance as Accounts by U.S. and Pyongyang Clash

Pyongyang called the result of a two-day visit by Pompeo ‘regrettable’ and said it raised the ‘risk of war’

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Committee upon arrival at Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee upon arrival at Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday. PHOTO: KCNA/ZUMA PRESS

SEOUL—The fate of negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program were cast into doubt Saturday after Pyongyang called the result of a two-day visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “regrettable” and said it raised the “risk of war.”

Pyongyang’s statement offered a sharply contradictory account of the outcome of the talks after Mr. Pompeo departed the country saying that talks had been held in “good faith” and “progress” had been made on central issues.

In an early sign of the disconnect, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, who met Mr. Pompeo on both previous visits to Pyongyang, did not meet the U.S. secretary of state.

The State Department declined to comment on the reaction from Pyongyang or the future of the process.

Cooperation between the two sides has been mixed since President Donald Trump met the North Korean leader in Singapore last month. At the meeting, both agreed to work toward “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” without specifying key details.

“These are complicated issues but we made progress on almost all of the central issues,” Mr. Pompeo said in Pyongyang on Saturday before boarding the flight to Tokyo. “Some places, a great deal of progress, other places there’s still more work to be done.”

Hours later, a spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry said U.S. demands for specific pledges on complete denuclearization violated the spirit of the agreement reached in Singapore.

“The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand[s] for denuclearization,” the spokesman said in a statement released in Pyongyang’s state media. “All of which run counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks.”

The weekend talks between Mr. Pompeo and General Kim Yong Chol, one of the North Korean leader’s top lieutenants, have been the highest-level engagement between the two countries since the summit on June 12.

It isn’t the first time North Korea has attacked the U.S. to gain leverage since entering into discussions with the Trump administration. Pyongyang issued a sharply worded statement ahead of planned U.S. military exercises with South Korea that briefly prompted Mr. Trump to withdraw from the summit in Singapore, which ultimately went ahead as planned.

The North Korean statement warned Washington against old methods that raise “cancerous” issues that “amplify distrust and risk of war.” Such an approach could shake North Korea’s “unwavering determination to denuclearize,” the spokesman said in the statement.

What Would Peace Look Like on the Korean Peninsula?

The two Koreas have technically been at war for more than six decades. That’s about to change, say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in. But what would peace on the peninsula look like?

“I think it’s a pretty bad sign. Is this the end—I don’t know,” Joseph Yun, a U.S. special representative for North Korea policy who retired earlier this year, told The Wall Street Journal. “I think they want to completely reduce U.S. expectations.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how the discord would impact the process after Mr. Pompeo told reporters on Saturday that low-level working groups had been established to iron out the details of the agreement.

Mr. Yun said Pyongyang appeared to believe it had offered concessions in stopping nuclear tests.

“From their point of view, you can see that they feel they’ve given something,” Mr. Yun said. “But they don’t get any feeling that Washington is talking with any degree of consistency.”

Senior Trump advisers have expressed skepticism about the talks and last week National Security Adviser John Bolton said Mr. Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang would aim to map out a path to dismantling the bulk of North Korea’s nuclear assets within a year.

Doubt over North Korea’s commitment to its nuclear promise in Singapore were already emerging before the trip. Satellite imagery published in reports last week showed North Korea is rapidly expanding a weapons-manufacturing plant that produces solid fuel missiles and has upgraded its main nuclear research facilities.

Timelapse: North Korea’s Missile Factory Being Built

Satellite imagery shows North Korea has been expanding a major missile-manufacturing facility in the city of Hamhung even as Washington pressures Pyongyang to abandon the weapon program. Photo/Video: Planet Labs

Pyongyang is also working on a submarine capable of launching a nuclear-armed ballistic missile, according to a senior South Korean official.

Mr. Pompeo said that the satellite reports had been raised during the meetings and the two parties had discussed how to implement the agreement made at the Singapore summit.

“No one walked away from that; they’re still equally committed, Chairman Kim is still committed,” he said, hours before the North Korean statement.

Another potential stumbling block is the repatriation of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War between 1950-1953.

Mr. Trump told a rally in Minnesota on June 21 that the transfer of more than 200 sets of remains had already taken place, as per the summit agreement. But weeks later, Defense Department officials were still waiting for the promised remains at the border with empty coffins and no explanation for the delay.

When asked about the remains on Saturday, Mr. Pompeo demurred on a timeline for the repatriation, saying the Defense Department would meet the North Koreans for a discussion about the process on July 12.

“The repatriation of remains will take place at the border and that process will begin to develop over the days that follow,” he said.

The secretary of state also declined to elaborate on whether the U.S. and North Korea had come closer to agreeing on a timeline for denuclearization or when Pyongyang might provide a declaration about its assets—both seen as crucial steps in the process.

“I’m not going to get into details of our conversations, but we spent a good deal of time talking about each of those two things and I think we made progress in every element of our discussions,” Mr. Pompeo said.

In return for denuclearization, the U.S. has dangled the prospect of economic investment once sanctions have been lifted.

Still, the North Koreans expressed continued confidence in Mr. Trump: “We maintain our trust in President Trump,” the statement said.

Mr. Pompeo spoke to Mr. Trump on a secure line earlier Saturday after a first day of talks, with Mr. Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly on the line, U.S. officials said after the call. No account was provided of the discussion.

Mr. Pompeo was accompanied to Pyongyang by a delegation from the State Department, National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Mr. Pompeo had been “very firm” in seeking three main goals: the complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances and the repatriation of U.S. soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Mr. Pompeo is expected to meet with Japanese and South Korean officials in Tokyo, who are key regional allies in the process with North Korea.

Officials in Tokyo fear that their interests may be sidelined as Washington pursues talks with North Korea, and have expressed alarm about U.S. concessions such the suspension of major military exercises with South Korea.

Pyongyang downplayed the U.S. concession in its statement on Saturday, saying that the exercises could resume at any time, while the U.S. demand it destroy military facilities would be impossible to reverse if Washington retreated from its commitments.

“Classic North Korean negotiating tactics: Pocket concessions from the United States while stringing out discussions on their own commitments,” said Abraham Denmark, Asia director at Washington-based think tank The Wilson Center. “This is a rejection of U.S. demands for unilateral denuclearization by North Korea, and a clear message that the U.S. will need to give up more to make progress.

Write to Jessica Donati at Jessica.Donati@wsj.com and Andrew Jeong at andrew.jeong@wsj.com


Rescuers in Thailand Race to Drain a Route to Freedom for Youth Soccer Team

Forecast calls for heavy rain, raising risk that underground complex in northern Thailand could be flooded

Trapped in a Cave: How to Rescue the Wild Boars Soccer Team

It’s a drama that is keeping the world on edge: Twelve boys and their soccer coach were found alive 10 days after vanishing in a flooded cave complex in Thailand. But officials say there are no easy options for getting them out.

THAM LUANG CAVE, Thailand—International rescuers working to extract a youth soccer team from a flooded cave system in northern Thailand raced Wednesday to drain a route to freedom before an incoming storm again raises water levels in the underground labyrinth.

The worsening weather forecast is for heavy rain within days as the tropical wet season becomes more entrenched.

Thai officials said the 12 boys and their coach appeared to be in good shape and physically ready for an extraction attempt if enough water can be pumped out of the cave. A video released Wednesday by Thai Navy SEALs showed the team inside a cavern smiling and flashing “V” signs for the camera. Many were wrapped in foil blankets, and some wore fresh clothing brought in by rescue divers; one sported an England soccer shirt.

Thai government spokesman Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak called for caution over time pressures to extract the boys. “The utmost objective we have is to be safe,” he said.

Others involved in the operation suggested an extraction could be imminent. “If everything goes well, they can get out tomorrow or the day after,” said Claus Rasmussen, a diver at Blue Label Diving in Phuket, who is offering advice at the cave site. “If not, then maybe we’re looking at a four-month option,” referring to a proposal that would see the team wait out the remainder of the rainy season, which can run until November.



1,000 feet

(surface footprint)


300 meters


Pattaya Beach

Team and coach found

800 meters to 1 km

below the surface

Some belongings found













Pong Pha


Gulf of


Sources: Shepton Mallet Caving Club (cave path); British Cave Rescue Council (location details); Google (image)

Mr. Rasmussen said one plan under consideration would pair each child with three divers who would guide them out individually and carry air tanks that attach to masks for the children.

One person involved in the rescue effort who asked not to be identified said divers are attempting to clear an exit from the cave and pump out as much water as possible. He said water levels inside the cave system, among Thailand’s largest, have gone down in recent days between 5 and 10 centimeters (about 2 to 4 inches). A lack of heavy rain in the past few days has helped the operation. Water, however, has again started coming in from an unknown source, complicating efforts.

Heavy RainHistorically, the rainiest months are still tocome in the area of Thailand where 13 peopleare trapped in a cave.Monthly rainfall in Chiang Rai, ThailandSource: Thai Meteorological Department
.inches201720181981-2010 averageJan.JuneDec.

Cave-diving experts have said that giving the children scuba gear and guiding them out carries significant risk. The passageways are narrow and sometimes difficult to maneuver, and the boys are a considerable distance into the cave. Some caverns are completely flooded. If one group gets into trouble, it might have to retrace its steps for hundreds of yards against a fast-moving current to reach safety.

Another possibility is to find a way to drill through the surface above or search for an alternative route into the miles-long cave system. Mr. Rasmussen said the boys have claimed to hear noises like dogs barking and roosters crowing. Although they haven’t been confirmed by divers, the reports have led Thai authorities to redouble efforts to locate possible holes to the surface through which the children could be rescued, he said.

The boys, who range from 11 to 16 years, entered the cave complex with their 25-year-old coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, on June 23 after finishing a soccer game, said the government spokesman, Lt. Gen. Weerachon. One member of the team who didn’t join the expedition said Mr. Ekkapol advised them to have a good breakfast and bring water. One team member who didn’t go on the cave hike, Songpon Kanthawong, 13 years old, said the squad idolized their coach and described him as a selfless leader they would follow anywhere.

The Way Out

Rescuers have been debating the safest way to get the trapped youth soccer team out of the Tham Luang Cave. Options include drilling into the cave complex from above and leaving the boys in place until the end of the rainy season, which could be months. A look at why taking them out now could be dangerous.


Main cave


Found alive

The 13 were found in a cavern above the level of rising waters just past a feature known as ‘Pattaya Beach.’

Low visibility from muddy water makes it difficult for even experienced divers to stay oriented.

Flowing water makes the four-hour trek out difficult for the boys, who cannot swim.

Parts of the passageways are underwater.

Pattaya Beach

Narrow stretches would require children to go single file, following a guide rope. If a child were to panic, it would be difficult to help them.

1,000 feet


200 meters

Note: Divers sometimes may have to remove their tanks.

Source: Thai government, staff reports

When the team entered the Tham Luang Cave, some left their soccer cleats and backpacks with their bicycles outside. Then, a flash flood cut them off from the entrance and they sought out higher ground further inside the cave as water levels quickly rose. Family members raised the alarm. They were located by a team of British diving experts late Monday after 10 days underground.

Lt. Gen. Weerachon said the boys had some snacks with them and a little water. When they realized they were trapped, they ate sparingly, sometimes augmenting their supplies by drinking water dripping from the cave wall. Mr. Ekkapol, the coach, had warned them not to drink from the muddy floodwaters and taught them basic meditation techniques to stay calm. Lt. Gen. Weerachon said each boy had a flashlight and they took turns using them to conserve batteries.

A Buddhist monk who had earlier held a prayer for the boys’ safety blessed a number of holy red string bracelets, some of which were distributed Wednesday among Navy SEALs for good luck, according to a person who saw the ceremony. Meanwhile, officials unsuccessfully devoted energy to a plan to connect the soccer team, nicknamed the Wild Boars, via fiber-optic and phone cables to their parents and rescuers on the outside.

Photos: Rescuers Work to Get Thai Soccer Team Out of a Cave

A youth soccer team and its coach were found alive deep inside a Thai cave complex. Getting them out will be extremely difficult.

Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakornstand, center. talks to the media as rescue operations continued Wednesday for 12 boys and their coach trapped at Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand.

Rescue-team members on June 27 searched for alternate entrances to the cave complex.

A parent of one of the boys who is trapped makes a phone call as she waits while the rescue operations continued.

Rescuers prepare dive gear at the entrance of the cave complex.

A great aunt of one of the boys displays birthday candles for him at their home.

A Thai army medic slips as his comrades carry a stretcher with an acting injured person during a rescue drill at the cave site.

One of the trapped boys.

A water pipe, part of the effort to drain the cave complex.

A foreign diver heads toward the cave complex.

Boys from the soccer team trapped inside the Tham Luang Cave receive treatment from a medic.

Relatives of the boys, aged 11 to 16 years old, and their soccer coach, showed photos of some of them July 2, after they were found alive in the cave.

Gen. Bancha Duriyaphan speaks to the press July 2.

Family members smiled after hearing the good news on July 2.

Thai soldiers loaded cables in the cave complex during the rescue operation.

Royal Thai Navy SEALs on June 30 headed into the cave.

A rescuer made her way down muddy steps past water-pump hoses at the entrance to the cave complex on June 29.
Rescue-team members on June 27 searched for alternate entrances to the cave complex.
1 of 16

The fiber-optic cable is now installed up to a midsection of the cave system, according to Nucha Kamtap, a local manager of CAT Telecom, which is in charge of handling communications in the cave. But that section is still short of the boys’ location, and he suggested that given the improved conditions in the cave, they may never have to install the last section.

Medical experts have warned about the psychological effects of staying underground for so long. Thai authorities, however, are concerned that the worsening weather could make it harder to supply food and water to the team, forcing them to order the boys’ extraction despite the risk.

Write to Phred Dvorak at phred.dvorak@wsj.com and Jake Maxwell Watts at jake.watts@wsj.com


Najib Razak, Malaysia’s Fallen Leader, Is Arrested in 1MDB Corruption Scandal

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has moved quickly since returning to power to restart the investigations at home

Najib Razak, then Malaysia's prime minister, with wife Rosmah Mansor in Pahang state on April 28.
Najib Razak, then Malaysia’s prime minister, with wife Rosmah Mansor in Pahang state on April 28. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a multibillion-dollar financial scandal at the heart of his government.

Mr. Najib quashed an investigation into the scandal when it exploded three years ago. But he is no longer able to dictate events after being cast from office in a stunning election loss in May, and the country’s new leader, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, has moved quickly to restart investigations into what went on at troubled state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB.

The U.S. Justice Department alleges in civil lawsuits that $4.5 billion was taken from the fund and used to buy mansions, a yacht and to fund a Hollywood production company, among other uses.

Mr. Najib was arrested at his Kuala Lumpur mansion, according to the special anticorruption task force set up to investigate the 1MDB affair, which said the former leader would be charged in court Wednesday morning. The investigators didn’t specify what charges he would face.

U.S. authorities say Mr. Najib’s flamboyant wife, Rosmah Mansor, obtained tens of millions of dollars in diamonds bought with 1MDB funds. There was no immediate word from Malaysian authorities on whether she was also facing arrest.

Mr. Najib and his wife have denied wrongdoing. Mr. Najib’s lawyers couldn’t be reached for comment. Mr. Najib views the expected charges as “politically motivated and the result of political vengeance’’ and will contest them, a spokesman said in a statement.

The former prime minister also issued a video showing moments of his life since his election defeat, including being mobbed by reporters as he appeared at the anticorruption agency for questioning, in which he narrated an apology to Malaysians and said that he “had done his best but it isn’t enough.’’

Mr. Najib was in custody at the headquarters of the country’s anticorruption agency. His supporters called for a rally at the facility to show solidarity with him. Media, meanwhile, gathered outside his home, where a single police van was parked, hoping for a glimpse of Ms. Rosmah. It wasn’t known whether she was inside.

The anticorruption commission said it spent the afternoon questioning Riza Aziz, Mr. Najib’s stepson, a co-founder of Red Granite Pictures Inc. Several Red Granite films, including “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dumb and Dumber To,” were financed with money siphoned from 1MDB, according to U.S. government lawsuits. U.S. prosecutors have sought to seize future earnings on those movies. Red Granite settled all actual and potential civil claims against it related to 1MDB for $60 million last year. Mr. Aziz has denied any wrongdoing.

A surprising election defeat in May stripped Mr. Najib of his ability to block investigations in Malaysia into what international prosecutors allege is one of the largest financial frauds of all time.

In July 2015, when the outlines of the 1MDB scandal began to emerge, Mr. Najib tried to shut down the probe, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. He fired Malaysia’s attorney general, who was seeking the prime minister’s arrest over allegations, first reported in The Wall Street Journal, that he received hundreds of millions of dollars from 1MDB into his personal bank accounts. The government suspended the license of a newspaper that had led reporting on the case and detained scores of critics.

A Conversation With Malaysia’s New Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

In an exclusive interview at the WSJ CEO Council in Tokyo, newly elected Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad revealed he plans to remain in power for “one or two years” rather than hand the reins to longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Over the past three years, authorities in the U.S., Singapore and Switzerland continued to investigate the 1MDB scandal. But Malaysia’s probe, led by an anticorruption commission, was mothballed, and overseas investigators complained that Malaysia dragged its feet in assisting them.

The arrest of Mr. Najib is just the starting point of an investigation that Mr. Mahathir says will take months to complete and focus on the roles of scores of people. The new government has barred a number of former government officials from leaving the country.

In particular, investigators are homing in on Jho Low, a Malaysian financier close to Mr. Najib who U.S. Justice Department lawsuits allege was the ringleader behind the purported theft of money from 1MDB. Mr. Najib gave Mr. Low wide latitude to run the fund’s affairs, say people who worked there.

“He has a lot of information, particularly information with regard to where the money is,” Mr. Mahathir said in a recent interview. “He would be a good witness.”

Malaysian investigative documents allege that Mr. Najib used 1MDB money to finance the campaigns of ruling-party candidates in the 2013 elections. U.S. officials also say proceeds from the fund went to buy jewels for Ms. Rosmah and mansions for her son, a friend of Mr. Low. Mr. Aziz, the son, has said he didn’t know the money was from 1MDB. In the past, Ms. Rosmah has described criticism of her spending as politically motivated.

Mr. Low previously offered to provide information about Mr. Najib and 1MDB in return for immunity from criminal prosecution, but Mr. Mahathir turned him down, according to people familiar with the proposed deal. Malaysian authorities have issued a warrant for Mr. Low’s arrest, Mr. Mahathir said last month.

Mr. Low couldn’t be reached for comment. He previously has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers have said he has instructed them to cooperate with investigators. He is believed to be in China.

From 2017: How the 1MDB Scandal Spread Across the World

How the 1MDB Scandal Spread Across the World

Starting in Malaysia, a scandal involving the 1MDB fund set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak now involves at least 10 countries, including the U.S. This animation shows how money allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB moved through global wealth centers before being used to buy real estate, art, and other assets around the world, including in New York and Beverly Hills. Illustration: Oliver Osborne for The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Justice Department, via its civil lawsuits, is attempting to seize almost $2 billion in assets allegedly bought with 1MDB money. However, in August, the department asked a U.S. judge to suspend those cases while it focused on building a criminal investigation into 1MDB, which people familiar with the matter say is focusing on Mr. Low.

Mr. Najib launched the 1MDB fund in 2009 as a way to spur investment in Malaysia, but it quickly racked up debts that now stand at $8 billion. Much of the money was raised via international bond issuances sold by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which earned hundreds of millions of dollars. The bank has defended its profits as commensurate with the risk involved.

The specific part of the inquiry that led to Mr. Najib’s arrest on Tuesday revolves around how some $10.5 million, allegedly from a former 1MDB unit, made its way into his personal bank account. The unit, SRC International, was established in 2011 as the fund’s vehicle for overseas energy investments. It was placed under the Finance Ministry’s control in 2012. Mr. Najib has acknowledged that the money went into his account but hasn’t provided an accounting of where it came from.

The allegations against Mr. Najib cover a fraction of the amount he is alleged to have received from the fund.

The Justice Department lawsuits separately allege that the former prime minister received $681 million from 1MDB into his personal accounts.

As he was battling for his political life in 2015, Mr. Najib appointed a new attorney general who said that the $681 million was a political donation from a Saudi royal that was later returned. He cleared Mr. Najib of wrongdoing.

Over the ensuing three years, Malaysian opposition politicians and human rights groups complained about an erosion of civil liberties in the country. Even Mr. Najib’s brother, Nazir Razak, a Malaysian banker, warned on social media that the country’s institutions were being undermined.

Ahead of the May elections, Mr. Najib’s government redrew electoral boundaries to favor the ruling party and enacted a “fake news” law that permitted authorities to jail critics for up to six years.

On election night, as it became evident that Malaysian voters had tossed his party from power, Mr. Najib was in shock as he gathered with his family and close aides, according to a person who was present.

Some members of his entourage urged Mr. Najib to ignore the election results and attempt to lure opposition lawmakers to his coalition, the person said. But Mr. Najib’s family counseled him to step aside gracefully, given that his National Front coalition had won only 79 seats in the 222-seat parliament.

With Malaysia’s democracy on a precipice, Mr. Najib ultimately decided against using force to stay in power.

Write to Tom Wright at tom.wright@wsj.com and Yantoultra Ngui at yantoultra.ngui@wsj.com


Thailand: Boys soccer team lost in cave found alive

The 12 boys and their coach went missing in a cave more than a week ago. Thai Navy SEAL video footage showed the emaciated soccer team crammed onto a small section of dry ground in the depths of the cave.


Watch video05:02

Thailand: rescue team reaches trapped boys

A Thai provincial governor said 12 teenage soccer players and their coach who went missing in a cave more nine days ago were found alive on Monday.

An international search effort, including experts from China, Australia, the US and Britain, had been ongoing since the group went missing inside the Tham Luang Nang Non 10-kilometer (6-mile) underground cave complex.

A video from the Thai Navy SEAL Facebook page has been shared widely on social media and shows the team looking emaciated as they sit on a small wedge of dry ground in the cave.

What we know so far

  • Chiang Rai  Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said “Thai Navy seals have found all 13 with signs of life”
  • Thai Navy SEAL video footage showed rescue workers had reached the team who were found in an emaciated state
  • A doctor will be sent in to check on them
  • The current plan is to drain all the flood water out of the cave before retrieving the team
  • Anmar Mirza, the US National Cave Rescue Commission coordinator, said many challenges are ahead for rescue divers
  • Mirza said the primary decision is whether to try and evacuate the boys

Watch video01:40

Thailand: Search for missing soccer team continues

Prime minister praises ‘tremendous efforts’ of rescue team

Thailand’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, thanked international experts and rescuers who helped find the 12 boys and their soccer coach.

The Prime Minister’s Office says Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha “wishes to thank the tremendous efforts of all international units that have come to assist the Thai authorities in rescuing the youth football team that was stuck in the caves in Chiang Rai … we all wish the team a safe and speedy recovery.”

How the 13 became trapped: The boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach went missing in the cave when flooding trapped them inside on June 23.

Rescue efforts delayed: Attempts by divers to find the 13 missing were continually hampered by rising water that has filled sections of the cave and forced them to withdraw for safety reasons. When water levels dropped Sunday, the divers went forward with a more methodical approach and deployed a rope line and extra oxygen supplies along the way.

law/kms (AFP, dpa)