CHIANG RAI — The new governor of Chiang Rai province said Friday he would respect his predecessor’s role as the leader of the ongoing effort to rescue 13 young men trapped inside a cave complex there.
Prachon Pratsakun, who formally replaced Narongsak Osottanakorn yesterday in a government order that displeased many on social media, said Narongsak will continue to oversee the operation as dictated by the interior affairs ministry. He said he’s looking forward to working with the former governor.
“We will coordinate our work, and the provincial authority is willing to give full support,” Prachon, who oversaw the neighboring province of Phayao until yesterday’s transfer, told reporters. “I will work to the best of my ability.”
Narongsak has been the most prominent face of the massive rescue operation at Luang Nang Non cave complex since an effort was launched to search for a missing football team trapped inside since June 23.
The former advisor to Thailand’s space geology center quickly gained a large internet following due to his proactive command and no-nonsense briefings to the media. However, it later emerged that Narongsak’s term was about to end as per an April government order swapping him with Prachon in Phayao province. The transfer became effective Friday.
Government officials have disputed allegations that Narongsak was transferred as punishment for refusing to sign on a series of questionable construction projects under his watch. In a Thursday interview with reporters, Prachon declined to say whether he would revive what Narongsak killed.
“As for all those projects, I would have to discuss with the Chiang Rai deputy governor first about how to proceed,” he said.