Singaporean, 57, part of Thai cave rescue effort
Businessman living in Thailand joined international team to find alternative passages into cave system
The plight of the 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a cave moved him so much that he dropped his work assignments and went to help.
Singaporean Poh Kok Wee, 57, runs a company that installs high-rise signs and solar panels in Nonthaburi, near Bangkok.
His cue to join the rescue efforts came after he found out that the Thai military was considering accepting civilian help three days into the search.
Mr Poh, who has about 10 years' of experience in high-rise rope work, was joined by four of the six professional climbers he employed.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Mr Poh, who has been living in Thailand for more than 28 years, said: "All of them have had extensive training in rope work, with two of them having worked as abseiling instructors in caves before."
After stringent screening by the Thai military on June 26, Mr Poh and his team took the first flight to Chiang Rai the next day and were taken to the Tham Luang cave by a military van.
They joined a larger climbing team of about 80 people, made up of rescue personnel from various countries such as Britain, Australia and China, Thai special forces and geologists.
The group worked feverishly over five days to find alternative passages into the cave system.
Trekking around the mountainous area, Mr Poh said he was escorted by Thai commandos as they were close to the notorious Golden Triangle, a haven for drug trafficking.
He said: "The military was worried about the possibility of springing booby traps laid by the traffickers."
Sleep was for only four to five hours every day, he said, until the missing schoolboys and their coach were found deep inside the cave system on July 2.
Mr Poh and his men returned to Nonthaburi on July 5.
As far as he knows, he is the only Singaporean involved in the effort.
Business has suffered becuase of his absence as he lost some orders, but he has no regrets. The memory of how a community came together from the surrounding villages will stay with him forever.
He said: "I vividly remember how even poor, older villagers in their 60s and 70s came forward to massage our sore feet after the search.
"It was really touching."