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Bangkok Body Snatchers

Started by Taman Tun, November 01, 2013, 06:32:33 PM

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Taman Tun

This was in The Guardian today:-

Bangkok's volunteer rescuers race to road crashes
Despite a fear of ghosts, amateur 'basic teams' attend to injured and dead before police and medics arrive to earn good karma
The photo arrives with a ping on SrijulaBaramee's mobile as her boyfriend drives her through another red light, dodging cars and trucks at 95mph en route to a crash near one of Bangkok's many freeways.
"Ooh," Srijula says loudly over the sirens and crackling two-way radios of their four-door coupe, as she looks at the image with a grimace. "This is a bad one."
Hurtling through Bangkok's notoriously bad traffic late on a Saturday night, Srijula â€" known as Ju â€" and JakkarinPanikabut, 20, rely on police radio to help them identify the details of the latest accident: a motorbike collision with an 18-wheeler, one suspected dead, another injured.
As volunteers with the Ruamkatanyu Foundation â€" a private organisation that supports the capital's fledgling emergency services â€" the two university students spend many of their evenings attending to Bangkok's wounded and dead, all in the name of earning good karma.
Whether it's a murder or a car crash, volunteers such as Ju and Jakkarin are often first on the scene, bypassing police to provide basic medical care to those in need and radioing for more advanced help if needed. Many of them keep connected to one another via mobile chat networks, where they share details and photos of the latest crash or emergency â€" partly out of macabre interest, but also to stay informed of the city's daily injuries and deaths.
"I've seen all sorts of things doing this," says Ju, a 21-year-old media student, as she and Jakkarin look over the remains of the motorbike rider, so mangled that only fingerprints will help identify her at the morgue. "You come across people who have drowned or rotted for days at home, or people so badly smashed up, their brains and organs are outside their bodies."
Despite a widespread fear of ghosts, most Thais believe that helping others â€" be they injured or dead â€" allows people to earn karmic merit, which explains why volunteers range from taxi drivers and messengers to factory workers and socialites. "It definitely doesn't make you popular with the girls, because you spend so many evenings out on the road," says ChayapolWattana, a 26-year-old businessman. "But it's a service to society and it's addictive."
Most volunteers protect themselves with amulets to ward off evil spirits. But NoppadonSritongkham, 44, deputy chief of RuamKatanyu's rescue and training, believes it is the ghosts themselves who protect him from the dangers of the living world.
He recounts a tale of nearly being beaten a few years back by a mob of angry volunteers from a rival foundation â€" fist fights were common until the government divided up the city into two separate geographical "emergency zones" â€" but claims he was protected by a group of ghosts posing as the living.
"The rivals told me later: 'We couldn't get close to your car because it was surrounded by strangers, so we had to back off,'" Noppadon laughs. "But there was only my friend and I in the car that night, no one else. I believe that because I've helped bring [the dead] to the place where they belong, then they will, in turn, take care of me."
Working the graveyard shift from 8pm to 8am, the volunteers split into teams with foundation employees and station themselves under freeway overpasses, at petrol stations or in empty car parks, where they sit and wait. Nibbling on snacks, they keep one ear tuned to their walkie-talkies and radios while trading stories of recent cases.
In a city where violent crime and traffic accidents are fairly common, says Noppadon, the wait isn't usually too long.
Volunteers work on behalf of the organisation, which was founded in 1970 to help Bangkok's poor bury their dead, but they buy their own essentials, such as the green uniforms, two-way radios, flashing roof lights and car seals with the Ruamkatanyu logo, with some volunteers spending up to 1m baht (£20,000) turning their cars into ad hoc ambulances.
Although some of the volunteers, including Chayapol and Ju, have undergone basic first aid, many of them have not â€" which has created its own problems.
"Sometimes victims will say [to the volunteers], 'Who are you? Why are you here?'" says Dr PairojKruekarnchana, director of Rajavithi hospital's Narenthorn emergency medical centre in Bangkok, which has established state-liaised emergency service centres all over Thailand. "They are not happy a volunteer is there first, especially if the volunteer has had no training, so now we are looking at getting all the volunteers [medically] accredited."
Thailand operates a two-tier emergency support system, sending out "basic teams" to accident or crime scenes first, only followed by an advanced life-support ambulance if deemed to be needed. These "basic teams" provide a much-needed service and account for roughly 60% of the emergency cases Bangkok's hospitals see every year, according to Pairoj.
"But most patients in Bangkok still come to hospital by taxi or are driven by their friends or family because of traffic," he adds. "In many instances, we've seen patients leave the accident before the ambulance has even had a chance to arrive."
As the volunteers wait for the next call at tonight's base â€" a major junction underneath a freeway overhang on Bangkok's outskirts â€" many drivers honk their horn and bow as they drive past as a sign of respect to the foundation. But it wasn't always this way. The stigma of being a "bodysnatcher", as some Thais call them, has only recently somewhat abated, thanks to the 2011 Bangkok floods, during which volunteers helped rescue many of those in need.
"Before, when I'd put on my uniform, I didn't like to be seen in public â€" I was afraid people wouldn't approve of me," says Noppadorn, a giggly, rotund man who reckons to have delivered thousands of dead to Bangkok's morgues in the past 10 years.
"But now I walk tall and proud," he adds as the radios crackle to life with the news of a car crash, and everyone is up and running. "When you're born, you have nothing, and when you die, you have nothing. Only your good deeds remain."
If the old only could, if the young only knew.


Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Rival rescue crews in deadly brawl

Por Tek Tung crew volunteer killed, two injured

One volunteer rescue worker died when rival ambulance squads brawled on the streets of Bangkok early Monday, officials said.

The incident started when an ambulance crew belonging to the Rom Sai Foundation accused another from the Por Tek Tung Foundation of encroaching on its territory in responding to a traffic accident.

The Rom Sai crew allegedly attacked the Por Tek Tung Foundation crew with clubs and handguns, leaving one volunteer member dead and two others wounded.

"We don't understand why they would do this," said Chumpol Boonpakdee, assistant director of Por Tek Tung Foundation.

"We have explained to them earlier that we are just volunteers serving society, there is no need for rivalry."

There are several volunteer rescue squads in Thailand that get paid by the number of patients they bring to hospital or bodies to a morgue, leading them to be known colloquially as the "body snatchers". There have been many  fatal brawls betwen rival crews in the past.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


Soldiers Break Up Rescue Worker Brawl in Bangkok

   BANGKOK â€" Soldiers were forced to assist police in stopping a fight between rival groups of emergency responders in Bangkok early Sunday morning.

The incident followed a brawl that broke out several hours earlier between staff from Romsai and Por Tek Tung Foundations on Suwinthawong Road in Nong Chok district on 3 January.

According to Panawuth Chu0sook, a 23-year-old member of the Por Tek Tung Foundation, his team was racing to assist victims injured from a fight in the area when a pickup truck driven by staff from the Romsai Foundation crashed into their vehicle.

Panawuth said the Romsai rescue workers shouted “foul language” at the Por Tek Tung staff, leading to a fistfight between the two groups.

While a team of Por Tek Tung workers brought the victims from the original fight on 3 January to the hospital, Panawuth and over 50 others from Por Tek Tung went to Lam Pak Chee Police Station to file assault charges against members of the Romsai Foundation.

However, rescue workers from Romsai also showed up at the station to file their own assault charges against Panawuth and his team members.

Sarawuth Chit-amphai, a 21-year-old worker with Romsai, told reporters that it was Por Tek Tung staff who attacked his team with "axes" and other weapons.

Tension at the police station soon escalated, with members of the rival groups trading insults and threatening to start another round of fighting. Police were eventually forced to request support from a nearby military unit to contain the situation.

Five soldiers arrived to separate the two groups, and after four hours of negotiation the two sides agreed not to press charges against each other, and left the police station.

Vicharn Tansuriyawong, the secretary-general of the Romsai Foundation, said the brawl broke out because of a "misunderstanding" about which areas the two groups were supposed to cover.

"There will be a meeting, an inspection of emergency medical equipment, and clear explanation about the areas of their responsibilities," Vicharn said. "All Foundations will now only take orders in their operation from [the state-operated] Erawan Centre to prevent any further conflicta when they help wounded victims."

He added, "If there is another brawl or fight, a committee will be set up to identify the perpetrators and expel them from the Foundations."

Most victims of accidents and crimes in Thailand are handled by emergency responders who belong to local foundations and charities. Nicknamed the "Body Snatchers," these rescue workers often race to reach crime scenes before their rivals because some groups are paid based on the number of "cases" they send to hospitals.

The rivalry sometimes turns deadly. On 2 December last year, a Por Tek Tung worker was shot dead allegedly by a Romsai Foundation staff during a street fight in Bangkok.

Nipon Thongpradit, a member of Por Tek Tung Foundation, told reporters that hospitals pay other rescue workers "500-1,000" baht per each "case," but that Por Tek Tung Foundation does not collect "case fees" for its services.

"We have clear documents waiving any payment from Erawan Centre, because we don't want any reward for our works," Nipon said.

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


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