A Dead Farang in Pattaya’s Walking Street
The following event is a true story. I do not know the exact date it happened but it was sometime in February, 2013. Those of you who were in Pattaya during this time may have heard.
Many foreigners who live in Thailand or have lived there at some point in their lives mention the experience people have when on holiday is completely different to living here. I have had many positive things to say about the land. However like everywhere in the world it has its flaws. It is wise to consider these flaws when forming an opinion. Foreigners who live in Thailand describe the beauties of the land but after a while their perspectives may change as they start to notice fundamental flaws that become difficult to ignore.
It has been mentioned many times that no matter how long a foreigner lives in Thailand he will never be considered as one of the people. He can learn the language, culture, marry a Thai girl and have Thai friends but it still will not change this. I am not sure how true this is but I have heard it said by many expats. It is also mentioned that if an unfortunate incident were to happen where a foreigner dies it would not be viewed by Thais the same way if a Thai person were to die. Thais will react to a foreigner's death the same way you and I would if we heard of an animal's death. The reason is foreigners are not perceived to be one of their people. They are almost treated as second class citizens. Once again I am not sure how true this is. I have never experienced this myself as I have never lived there. For the most part Thai people have been very friendly to me and as a person who loves Thailand the statements above are very difficult to accept.
I concluded that foreigners who spoke this way about Thailand have perhaps become a little tired and frustrated with the country which has caused them to have an exaggerated opinion on the negatives. Luckily I have not had experiences which agree with this. Although I have witnessed weird cultural traits, in general I have had a very positive experience. However recently I had an experience that challenged this and reminded me of what many expats had said about how Thais may react to a foreigner's death. It is almost as though it was perceived as ‘just another dead farang' instead of a genuine tragedy.
I was out with my friend Frank in a club called Insomnia in Walking Street. My friend was socializing with a girl. We separated. There was far too much smoke so I had left to go to another club called Lucifer. Eventually I went home. The next morning I met up with Frank for breakfast and we started to talk about the previous night.
“Where did you go last night?” he asked whilst he pulled his chair out to sit down in the hotel restaurant.
“Insomnia had far too much smoke” I began “It's a nice club but the smoke makes it difficult to breathe.”
“So you went to Lucifer?”
“It's good you didn't stick around.”
“Why is that?”
“Someone died on Walking Street.” He said this very seriously and appeared quite upset.
“Really what happened?”
“Well I was walking along the street back to the hotel with my girlfriend” began Frank “suddenly out nowhere I saw a person collapse on the floor and shake uncontrollably.”
“Was he a foreigner?” I asked now concerned with the realization that somebody had just died.
“Yes. People were just looking.”
“Nobody did anything?”
“No. They couldn't. The person was shaking uncontrollably so it would be difficult to carry him anywhere. He was clearly under a great deal of pain. What made it worse was two Thai people… they were probably in their late teens or were young adults were laughing.”
“It was a big joke to them. They were laughing until a grown Thai adult yelled at them.”
“Why didn't you call the police?”
“There was no police. This was after 4 AM where there was no police or tourist police around.” Frank sighed “it was very disturbing. Some Thai girls were crying.”
“So no one came? Not even an ambulance?” I asked refusing to believe that no one was around to help.
“Someone had called an ambulance. I left but around an hour later I returned to see a police officer…”
“1 hour!” I interrupted.
“Yes. The person was already dead. He had stopped shaking and there was no ambulance to be found.” Frank and I looked at each to other. I cannot describe the expression on his face or the feeling I was feeling. But for a moment it was almost as though all the positive perceptions we had on Thailand was an illusion and the event that has occurred the previous night was a rude awakening. The curtain that is the famous Thai smile had been pulled before our eyes and we saw things from a different perspective. I only felt this briefly.
“Perhaps he was on drugs.” I suggested.
“But this place is still great.”
“Of course” said Frank. I could tell from the expression on his face that he was pondering what if that was him. I could relate as I felt the same way. We both hoped this situation was a one off and whilst in Thailand we were safe and we did not have a false sense of security.
Although what happened above is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the person and his family, Thailand also has many wonderful things to offer. I always mention the positives of Thailand and as result I make it sound like a perfect place. Unfortunately no such place exists. I still stand by the notion that one must consider both the negatives and the positives of a place before forming an opinion. However I cannot help but think that his death could have very well been avoided had this incident been taken more serious. I do not know whether there was any malice towards the person who died because he was a foreigner. But I hope these tragedies and incidents are exceptions. After all it will be a shame for such occurrences to tarnish the beauty that Thailand has to offer. It is a place consisting of excitement and many available experiences although some like this can be downright scary. But please do not let this put you off visiting Thailand as you will be missing out.
At the scene of an accident or perhaps a death in Thailand, locals will stand around and watch. It does not matter if the victim is Thai or foreign, that's the standard reaction. I would imagine that the teenagers laughing did not think the death was funny; that was simply their way of reacting to a situation that made them feel uncomfortable. As for ambulances collecting bodies, that's a Western thing and here in Thailand bodies are often collected by "rescue services" like Ruamkitanyu and Po Teh Tor.
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