Readers' Submissions

Death in Isaan




One girl, Toon, from my wife Daeng’s village, got hooked up with a Japanese guy some 8 – 9 years ago. Even though she was married to a Thai guy, he agreed that it was better for the family to let Toon go to Japan for the money. She sent money back regularly for 4 or 5 years. She even came back to visit Thailand every year or so. Then after about 7 years in Japan, she came back to stay. She had contracted AIDS in Japan. She came back to Thailand to die, which she did several months after returning.

Ever since the first time I made it to my wife’s village, the older women who have known Daeng since she was a baby have been very friendly to me. We’ve spent many fun times together over the years. There are two particularly old ladies, Oup and Aew. I have no idea what their true age is, but it’s probably over 60 or 65. But with the way that such harsh life takes a toll on Isaan people, they could be 50 for all I know. Both are widowed now. Both drink Lao Kao like it’s water. I don’t know how they survive. We always have fun with them when we go back to visit Thailand. Daeng is currently visiting Isaan with our daughter for a couple months while I’m working overseas. She said Aew isn’t really eating any more. All the people in the village try to get her to eat. I think the Lao Kao has taken its toll and she probably just can’t stomach food anymore. It’s just a matter of time until she dies. I hope I get to have a drink with her one more time before it’s too late.

My wife, Daeng, had a childhood friend Noi, who got caught dealing drugs in Thailand about 7 years ago. Daeng didn’t know Noi had anything to do with drugs until we were in Pattaya about 5 years ago. Daeng had asked a few friends in Pattaya who she hadn’t seen in years if they knew where Noi was, since Pattaya was the last place she had heard Noi was located. They said Noi had been arrested for doing drugs and was in prison. Daeng was shocked. 2 months later the government executed Noi.

The story behind Oup (mentioned above) becoming a widow: We were at our home in Isaan visiting for a couple weeks a few years ago. When we got to the village, Oup was always one of the first people to walk over to our house and welcome us home. But that particular time, Oup hadn’t shown up for a couple days, so we asked where she was. Apparently she was in Bangkok visiting someone, I can’t remember if it was her brother or son, for a few days. She would be back soon though and was excited to see us. That night, we heard lots of commotion among the houses around ours. We rushed out to see what was going on. The commotion was at Oup's home. We got there, and Oup's husband had died. The sons were there crying. It turns out that Oup had told her husband that she would be back a couple days earlier. She decided to stay a few days longer to visit her relative in Bangkok. Her husband, also a very old man, was mad at his wife for not coming home. He missed her. As a result, he had only been drinking and taking his medicine, but not eating, for 3 days. It was too much on his mind and body, and he never woke up.

We used to visit my wife’s aunt (mom’s mom) whenever we visited the village. She was getting very old, and didn’t recognize any of her family by the time I first met her. She just always smiled, but didn’t talk much. The aunt’s only daughter was an alcoholic. It got to the point where she literally ignored her mom. Even though they lived in the same home, the aunt basically lived on a bed that was outside under a tin roof. The village was very mad with the daughter for not taking care of her mother. While the villagers did what they could to take care of the old aunt, the villagers are poor themselves and could only do so much. The old aunt became more and more forgotten by her daughter, whose mind was drowned in alcohol. Finally, the old aunt died. The daughter was so out of touch with reality she hardly noticed her mom was gone.

One night back in the US my wife called her cousins to see how they were all doing, and to see how our house was (since it’s empty when we’re not in Thailand). Daeng only calls every month or so. She was told that Ya Gaim, one of the other old ladies who lived next door to us, had fallen on the step of her own house. She had hit her head and had an aneurism. She was dead within hours. It was a real shock to everyone since she was relatively young – in her early 40s.

For anyone who has been to funerals in Thailand, they are an experience in themselves. But that’s another submission.

Stickman's thoughts:

This submission sure does touch on the harshness of the lives of country people in Thailand.