Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Chilean miners warn Thai boys of exploitation

‘DESTROYED’:Drawing from their own traumatic experience, the group said recovery will not be easy, but praised the ‘strength’ of the dozen boys that is ‘different to ours’

AFP, SANTIAGO

Guard against exploitation: That was the message Chilean miners have offered the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach following a harrowing ordeal of 18 days trapped in a cave.

Even before the clothes of the “Wild Boar” soccer team’s players had dried following the last dramatic escape mission on Tuesday from the flooded cave, there were already plans being made to turn their heroic tale into a Hollywood movie.

Eight years ago, 33 Chilean miners were stuck underground for 69 days after a cave-in before their torment was turned into a motion picture starring Antonio Banderas.

However, although The 33 grossed US$25 million at the box office, the miners never saw a penny of that.

“Hopefully they’ll make a film, a television series, a best-selling novel, but that they do it well, that they are smart and don’t get taken for a ride by fraudsters,” said Mario Sepulveda, who was played by Banderas in The 33.

The boys are aged 11 to 16 and even their coach is only 25, whereas the Chilean miners were all grown men.

Many of the miners have suffered terribly since their traumatic experience in the San Jose Mine in the Atacama Desert.

“The most important thing is that the authorities and their families protect these kids, because many people just want to take advantage,” said Luis Urzua, another miner.

On Tuesday night, the managing partner of US faith-based production house Pure Flix, Michael Scott, revealed on Twitter his plans to turn the story into a film.

However, before worrying about how to sell their stories, Urzua warns that recovering from the “the experience of a lifetime” will not be easy.

“It’s been eight years, but there are still many things we cannot overcome,” Urzua said.

Another miner, Jose Ojeda, had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

There is also bitterness at having been exploited by lawyers, producers and others who wanted to benefit from their story.

“Once they’d got the information off us, they disappeared,” Urzua said.

He said that they were badly advised and fell for promises that they would be made millionaires, and “ceded all [intellectual] rights for life.”

Urzua is among a group of miners who want to rescind that decision.

Despite spending more than two months 600m below ground, “we can’t even sell one line of The 33,” he said.

The miners never received a penny from the film, directed by Mexican Patricia Riggen, or the book written by Los Angeles Times journalist Hector Tobar, who the Chilean miners picked to write the official account of their trauma, Urzua said.

“They destroyed us,” said Urzua, who praised the protective circle that has enveloped the Thai boys.

Urzua said that all he got was “less” than the 5 million Chilean pesos (US$7,703 at the current exchange rate) that Chilean businessman Leonardo Farkas handed each miner as they left their captivity.

However, Sepulveda has faith in the Thai soccer players, saying that the “strength of these boys is different to ours.”

“If they keep training, they’ll handle it really well, as long as they stick together,” he told reporters.

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