Readers' Submissions

Death In The Village

  • Written by AR
  • May 18th, 2002
  • 11 min read




THINGS TO KNOW:

Ok! So you want to marry a Thai woman and live with her happily ever after. Let’s also say that you want to live with your new Thai wife in her village in Thailand, or maybe she will live in her village while you go out and work in some other country to provide the support for her.

SICK: What do you do when you get sick and the nearest hospital is many kms away and just MAYBE there will be someone that can speak English or your language? What if you're so sick that you cannot make the trip to the hospital many kms away?

If you're so sick that you cannot possibly travel then you will have to go to a local doctor who probably does not speak any language other than Thai. Not to worry. Through ‘sign’ language and facial expressions and diagrams you can be somewhat assured that you will get immediate attention. Remember that what is wrong with you has probably occurred at some time or other with many of the local Thais. You will probably be given 4 or 5 different medicines to take! Now, the best advise I can give is – get – somehow, onto the Internet and search for some on-line medical sites and find out what medicine you are taking and for what. The prescription will more than likely be in Thai so, hopefully you can look at the tablets or what have you to identify the medicine. If this fails, take the medicine and as soon as you are up to it – get to a hospital.

I am NOT A DOCTOR but what I do is take one (1), 100mg tablet of Doxycycline every day and in three years I have not been sick. Read about Doxycycline for yourself on the Internet and decide if this is right for you. (I'm not clear about this, but if you have been taking this drug every day for three years, that is absolute madness! – Stick)

The point that I am trying to make is that we all get sick, sooner or later. Be prepared with a plan on getting help and to a medical facility.

DEATH: Do you know what the village death (insurance) scheme is? Do you know what it costs to cremate your mate? (In Thailand cremation is the norm) Do you know what is required for a funeral? Do you know how long it takes from the day of death to cremation? Do you have any idea what the funeral ceremony is like? Do you know how the death certificate is issued? Will I have to leave Thailand if my wife dies? Will I be able to keep the home I built?

We are all going to die, again, sooner or later. I have been to, litterly, hundred’s of funerals in the last three years. On the dreadful day what do I do?

To simplify: If death occurs at home or in a hospital:
1. A coffin will be purchased and delivered by the family to hospital and taken home, or if death occurs at home.
2. A coffin will be purchased and delivered by the family to the home of the deceased
(cost: from 3,000 baht up which includes the ‘palanquin.’ Suggestion: buy the cheapest and use the savings as a ‘gift’ in the wife’s name to the village school (for books, supplies, etc.) Remember, the coffin and ‘palanquin’ will be burned so why waste the money on that stuff.
3. The family will contact a doctor.
4. Doctor will declare person dead and administer a ‘shot’ – supposedly to prevent
the body from ‘stinking’ while it lays in 90+ degree heat for 3 to 5 days! Don’t ask.
5. The body will be wrapped in white cloth and water sprinkled on the hand of the deceased, and the coffin covered. Sometimes with a ‘hard’ cover, sometimes with just a white cloth. For lack of a better word, Christmas tree lights will be strung all around the coffin.
5. The head monk at the village wat will be notified and a date specified as to when cremation can take place – usually 3 to 5 days after the death. You will not have a say in this matter.
6. Monks will also arrange to provide the two (2) daily funeral ‘chants’ – morning and evening, beginning the day of death. You can have 5 to 12 monks. Suggestion: no more than 5 as each monk, each day – twice a day will be given an envelope with a donation of from 20 to 100 Baht each. Calculate: that’s from 2,000 to 5,000 Baht minimum to 12,000 baht maximum for the 5 days.
7. Family will arrange to pickup from the wat all tents, chairs, tables, cooking pots, utensils, etc. Truck rental: 500 baht, estimated.
8. You will have to go to the local ‘funeral’ shop to purchase flowers, wreath, death notice, banner, "dork maijan" a flower made from paper thin wood that will be presented to everyone at the cremation to be placed in the coffin, etc. Once printed, the death notice will be sent to every living relative, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, sisters, brothers, etc. You are a ‘farang’ so EVERYBODY will come. Cost: 500 to 1500 Baht.
9. The village head-man will come by the home and provide a death certificate.
10. The family will decide what food to provide the ‘droves’ of people that will be showing up. Basically it will be either chicken, fish, pig or beef. Suggestion: Buy a whole cow for 10,000 Baht. It will be butchered on the spot and everything will be used and it should be enough for the full 5 days. If you go with chicken figure on 30 to 50 baht per chicken and it is anybody’s guess as to how many chickens would be needed.
11. The cooking will begin sometime during the mid-morning as soon as the tents are set-up and the cooking area is defined. All cooking and cleaning is done by village volunteers (home scouts).
12. An area will be set aside to place a TV and video for the viewing pleasure of the village. Video tapes will probably be comprised of karaoke. In addition, a truck will show up with loud speakers, amplifiers, etc. so that this equipment can be used when the Monks are doing their chants and to allow the whole village to hear. Approximate cost: 500 to 800 baht daily.
13. While all this is going on, you the ‘farang’, will be sitting in a corner somewhere – staying out of everybody’s way.
14. Some of the village folks will build a paper house containing everything that the deceased would need in the next life, i.e., TV, bed, dishes, etc.

ALL THE ABOVE WILL TAKE PLACE ON THE VERY FIRST DAY OF THE DEATH. YOU WILL BE LEFT OUT OF EVERYTHING. NOWONE IS GOING TO ASK YOU FOR ADVICE OR WHAT YOU WANT. IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE THAT YOU ARE THE HUSBAND OF THE DECEASED. TO THEM, YOU ARE A ‘FARANG’ AND OF NO CONSEQUENCE EXCEPT TO BE THE ‘ODDITY’ FOR THEIR AMUSEMENT. BUT ALSO KEEP IN MIND THAT YOU WILL BE PAYING THE BILL – SO GET INVOLVED AND TELL THE FAMILY WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY AND WHAT YOU WANT. IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT, THEN LEAVE THEM HANGING – GO AWAY – AND LET THE FAMILY ‘FOOT’ THE BILL. REMEMBER, THE WIFE IS DEAD AND YOU CANNOT BRING HER BACK. IF THE FAMILY WANTS TO RUN EVERYTHING ON THEIR TERMS, LET THEM. SEE BELOW: THE VILLAGE DEATH (INSURANCE) SCHEME. IF THE FAMILY KNOWS THAT YOU KNOW THEN ‘THEY’ MAY SPALANQUIN AND THINK BEFORE SPENDING (ESPECIALLY IF THEY THINK THEY WILL LOOSE ‘MONEY’)

15. For the next 3 to 5 days, 24 hours a day, people will be showing up from everywhere. It is anybody’s guess as to who they are. A meal will probably be served some time in the afternoon, each day. At night during the ‘chants’, watermelon seeds will be handed out for a snack. After the ‘chants’, Coke, Pepsi, or other drink will be handed out and sometimes a fruit or cake, etc. As soon as the monks have left the home, the TV and videos will start playing; and the card tables will be set-up for all-night ‘gambling’ and they will expect you to provide ‘booze’ for them to drink – IN A WORD – ‘DON’T’.
16. During the chanting of the sutra’s by the monks they will hold a string (sai sin) that is attached to the coffin. This is so that the words of the sutras travel from the monks to the deceased person.
17. The night prior to cremation day the ‘palanquin’ will be delivered and set on the truck that will take the coffin to the crematory.
18. On the final day – cremation day – there will be the biggest ‘feast’ because that is when all the ‘distant’ relatives would have arrived. The monks will do the final ‘at home’ chant and lead the coffin to the truck that will haul the remains to the ‘crematory’. Then, between 12 and 1 PM the procession will begin. The family and village folk will lead or follow the coffin to the crematory, along with 2 to ? monks (again, you decide how many). At the crematory the monks will do more chanting and be presented with gifts – usually new orange robes, followed by pictures, and then the viewing of the remains and burning. YOU CAN GO TO THE CREMATORY BUT YOU CANNOT REMAIN FOR THE ACTUAL BURNING.
19. After the burning, you and the family will return home – all the tents will have been taken down, the chairs, tables, cooking pots, etc. will be returned to the wat.
20. As your final step: at sundown, YOU will have to build a fire (and for the next three nights) in front of the house (gate), keep the fire burning the entire night, and place a cup of water by the fire! Apparently, if the wife IS NOT DEAD she can find her way home during the three night vigil! Don’t Ask!

AS I STATED EARLIER, YOU WILL BE PAYING THE BILL AND IT CAN BE ANYWHERE FROM 10,000 baht (THE ABSOLUTE MINIMUM) TO 100,000 baht OR MORE! WHAT ‘YOU’ DECIDE TO PAY MUST BE STATED TO THE FAMILY ON THE VERY FIRST DAY OF DEATH. INFORM THE FAMILY THAT YOU ‘WANT’ THE BILLS AS SOON AS THEY ARE PAID (ON THE DAY AND HOUR THAT PURCHASES ARE MADE). IF THEY DO NOT WANT TO COMPLY THEN LEAVE AND LET THE FAMILY PAY FOR EVERYTHING.

I stated at the beginning that each village has a death (insurance) scheme. This is how it works:

THE VILLAGE DEATH (INSURANCE) SCHEME: Your wife moves back to the village and REGISTERS her address. Then every time there is a death in the village she pays 20 – 60 baht to the ‘insurance’ fund. The more she pays the larger the reimbursement will be upon her death. In addition, other family members can also pay 20 – 60 baht (in your wife’s name) so that when she dies THEY will get money from the ‘fund.’ It’s like gambling on someone dying! As an example: The wife decides to pay the minimum – 20 baht per village death. When she dies HER FAMILY will receive a minimum of 10,000 baht for funeral expenses. But, if she pays the 60 baht per village death, HER FAMILY will get ALL FUNERAL EXPENSES paid. SO, WHETHER ‘YOU’ PAY OR NOT THE FAMILY WILL BE AHEAD (YOU PAY AND THE FAMILY GETS CASH – YOU WILL NOT SEE ANY OF IT). YOU WILL GET NOTHING FROM THIS ‘VILLAGE’ INSURANCE SCHEME.

With the above being said, before ‘pissing’ off any of the relatives, you need to decide if you will remain in the village after your wife’s death, and assuming you built your home there, whether you want to continue to live in the home. If the answer is ‘Yes’ I will live in my home (and get me a ‘maid’ to live and care for me?), then you DO NOT want to upset the family by making them pay for the funeral. And remember this, when the home was built, I assume that the home and land was registered at the ampur in your wife’s name? Yes, the wife can OWN land and house in her married name even if she is married to a ‘farang’ – the law has been changed to that effect. If for some reason the home was registered in somebody else’s name (relative) then you will have BIG problems because that relative, if alive, is going to want that land and house – and will get them!

If you have been living in Thailand on one (1) year visa’s, the visa will be changed to a ‘Retirement Visa’ after you provide Thai Immigration with a copy of the Death Certificate. Note: Since you have to apply for a new visa annually, you will have to provide the Death Certificate annually as well. But, you will not have to leave Thailand when the wife dies.

Stickman says:

And here I was thinking of the dark day when I get married, and the mother of all arguments that I will have with the unlucky girl's parents to the effect that I will not be paying a single satang for the priovilege of looknig aftrer their little princess for life. And now I read that if said girl was to die bnefore me, it is gonig to cost a fortune! Aaaargh, I think I had better die first!