Two Australian divers who helped rescue 12 boys from a flooded cave in Thailand will receive civilian honours, PM Malcolm Turnbull says, report agencies.
Mr Turnbull confirmed the as yet unspecified honours would be awarded to Richard Harris, an anaesthetist, and Craig Challen, a vet.
The men entered the Tham Luang cave as part of the international rescue. Dr Harris helped give medical assessments.
It embodied “every Australian value we hold dear”, Mr Turnbull said. Dr Harris was one of the last rescuers to emerge from the cave after three days of the mission to extract the Wild Boars football team and their coach last week. He and Dr Challen, both experienced divers, helped move the boys out of the cave. “That is one of the most extraordinary acts of heroism, professionalism, discipline [and] teamwork,” Mr Turnbull told local radio 3AW, as he also gave praise to all involved. Thai authorities have paid tribute Dr Harris for his crucial medical role in the operation.
On Monday, they also confirmed that Dr Harris, Dr Challen and another Australian medical professional had been granted diplomatic immunity in the event that the mission went wrong.
“We knew there were risks involved in this mission… so there was an understanding reached between the Thai government and the Australian government,” Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told a news agency. Dr Harris told reporters last week: “[There were] some moments of significant fear, I have to say, and then a great result and some really joyous moments to finish.”
However the moment was “bittersweet” after he learned his father had died shortly after the rescue’s completion.
Nearly 45,000 people have signed an online petition calling for him to be awarded Australia’s most prestigious bravery honour, the Cross of Valour.
The Australian pair and other divers, including a former Thai Navy Seal who died in the operation, have been lauded around the world.
The Wild Boars had spent nine days in the cave with little food or light when British divers first reached them on 2 July.
The boys, aged 11-16, and their coach, have been recovering in hospital. They are expected to be discharged on Thursday.