Stickman Readers' Submissions March 20th, 2003

You May Lose More Than Your Money

An alarming incident occurred a few months ago when my Thai girlfriend went back to Buriram to renew her ID card. Ahead of her in the queue was the middle-aged widow of a recently deceased farang who was weeping and being comforted by her brother. She was there to seek the necessary authority to claim her dead husband's estate. When the officer at the counter asked her for the death certificate, she tearfully explained that her husband had died only the previous day and that the hospital had not issued it yet. The officer said that he could not process her request without it.

Suddenly, her tears dried. This lady was not going to take no for an answer. She argued with a succession of officials in a voice loud enough for the growing crowd of waiting ID card applicants to hear every word. This spectacle went on for hours.

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It transpired that she had been married for just six months to her farang husband. He had finished building a house for them only two days previously. On the day of his death, they had been celebrating its completion at a small gathering in a nearby town. She explained that as they were returning home by motorbike, they were hit by a pick-up truck. Her husband was killed. Sadly, such accidents are not rare in rural Thailand. On the face of it, this was just tragic bad luck.

As the discussion continued, some facts emerged that cast doubt on this version of events. After the accident, the driver of the pick-up helped to ferry her husband's body to the hospital morgue. Why did he do this? If you read the newspapers, you get the impression that drivers here typically flee the scene of a fatal accident. Perhaps he was just trying to do the right thing. Perhaps he did not consider that his actions would deny police the opportunity to examine the scene of the crash. The wife was lucky. She was the pillion passenger but survived the fatal accident without a single visible injury. Not even a grazed elbow. An extraordinary escape.

As time wore on and patience wore thin, her brother started to make his presence felt. Dressed in army fatigues, he gave the impression of being a tough guy. The body language of the couple began to give observers the impression that perhaps they enjoyed a different sort of relationship. They just seemed too intimate. He frequently pestered her for details about how much money he would get.

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Leaving this real-life story aside for a moment, let's consider a hypothetical situation. If you were an ageing bargirl with a Thai boyfriend and were tired of selling your body for peanuts, you might be tempted for financial reasons to contemplate a loveless marriage to a rich farang. Maybe he could set you up with a house and give you much needed financial security. Obviously your boyfriend and family would have to be in on it from the start. Once the subject was aired, you would probably discuss little else. Everyone would be day-dreaming about living the good life. Expectations would be high.

Six months down the line, the farang has parted with as much cash as he can tolerate and just wants a quiet life. His quiet life is your living hell. You are in an emotional prison. The house may be in your name, but the cash that can secure your future is still his. He is not as generous as he used to be either. No one likes him and it is a real effort to have to pretend. If you threw him out now, you would almost be back to where you started. You wish that the bastard would just die. So does everyone else. Your boyfriend has been swallowing his pride and suppressing his anger for six months. He may not be squeamish about doing the necessary. Could it be made to look like a burglary gone wrong? Maybe that would attract too much attention. Perhaps it would be better to stage an accident. It might work if everyone sticks to their story. Of course, this is fiction.

Coming back to the real-life story, one should not be too quick to make dangerous and probably untrue allegations. There is no evidence of murder here; just a suggestion that foul play needs to be ruled out. The audience in the ID card office relieved the boredom of their long wait by indulging in speculation. There was too a great deal of sympathy for the unfortunate farang who died thousands of miles away from home. The event caused considerable local interest and the police did launch an investigation. However, I do not know the outcome. Maybe one of your readers can shed some light on this.

Even if there was no foul play involved in our true-life story, it is easy to feel distaste at a wife's unseemly haste to derive financial reward from her husband's death. I wonder whether it is normal for relatives to ask the widow 'how much do I get' within hours of the event? Do they have no shame? I am curious as to whether polite mainstream Thais would share this feeling of distaste or do they just see it as normal and practical.

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There is also a wider issue here. Recent reports in the Bangkok Post about the deaths of other farangs in similarly suspicious circumstances have prompted me to wonder whether this is just the tip of an iceberg. Could it be possible that getting away with the murder of lonely farangs is commonplace? In a country where fifty drug dealers are murdered every day, do the police have adequate resources to investigate every case properly? Do they have experts who can evaluate forensic evidence? What happens outside the relative order of Bangkok? If people think that they can get away with murder, are they more likely to go through with it?

If it exists, then just how prevalent is this kind of murder? It would be interesting to compare the mortality rate of farangs with Thai wives against a similar control group with western wives. Researchers take note. However, I would be surprised if such statistics were available here. Until they are, you will have to make up your own mind. It is always important for a man to choose his wife carefully but making a mistake in Thailand may be costlier than you think.

Stickman says:

No one can deny that there are a lot of very suspicious deaths of farangs in Thailand and as observers we will never know the truth. Cynicism is a dangerous thing but the circumstances surrounding many a farang's demise warrant it. Perhaps it would be prudent to play the role of the impoverished farang so that Miss Thailand doesn't see you as a potential target!

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