From the Blog

July 12, 2016

Thailand’s Body Snatchers


There are a number of things that happen relatively every day in Thailand that most westerners find strange or just down- right unfathomable, the first must be the quality of driving in the country, where Thailand’s roads are the second-deadliest in world, so says the World Health Organization and where it would appear far too many children ride motor bikes to and from school and almost none of them wear crash helmets.


Thailand's Body Snatchers Thai kids going to school on a motor bike


Then there is superstition and the belief in spirits, ghosts and demons, which seems to be ingrained in every-day life, followed closely by the issue of saving/losing face which is the bane of so many falang’s lives.

For others it is possibly the morbid interest the Thai people seem to have in murders or traffic accidents, so much so that the press is filled, on an almost daily basis, with graphic pictures of such instances and where it is not unusual for ambulance crews (who are known as Thailand’s Body Snatchers)  to pose with dead bodies and accident victims and post the pictures on social media, and or for large crowds to gather around an incident clambering to get a peak at the carnage.


Thailand's Body Snatchers eating on the go


To give those that don’t have first-hand experience in Thai people’s morbid curiosity of death we include a couple of posts from those who do.

Henri Paget wrote on the ninemsn blog: “When Perth travel agent Michelle Smith was stabbed to death in Phuket, ambulance workers shocked her grieving friends by posing for a photo with her dead body. But scenes like these are commonplace in Thailand, a country with an extraordinarily desensitized attitude towards death and relaxed regulations when it comes to the treatment of dead bodies. [Source: Henri Paget, ninemsn]


Thailand's Body Snatchers Emergency response vehicles

Emergency response vehicles come in many forms in Thailand


One posting on Isaanstyle blog reads: “I still remember vividly a horrible crash I had attended a while ago where a drunk Thai guy (surprising) ran into some girls on a motorbike. One girl was killed instantly and she was not a pretty picture to see. Another girl was in a bad way. As the crowd of gawkers gathered to do nothing other than rubber neck, there were tiny kids standing in front of their parents looking at the scene while parents talked. It made me sick to see this and I couldn’t believe that people could be such terrible parents. There are things that kids can see and other things that they just shouldn’t see. [Source: Isaanstyle blog]




Why do Thai people seem to be so Callousness towards Death especially ambulance crews?

In a recent interview with a falang who deals with the issue of death in Thailand on a regular bases, Marko Cunningham, a New Zealander who operates a free ambulance service in Bangkok, said “Thai people are not offended by these displays. “They see [death] every day in the streets and their lives. Everyone has a family member who has been killed in a road accident or other accident of some sort.”

He went on to state “The majority of ambulance workers in Thailand are not paid – they are volunteers, required only to undertake a two-day first responder training course. When they arrive at the scene of a death they are responsible for taking care of the body until a paid official arrives to move them to the morgue. While undertaking the task they will often take photos to post on Facebook or other social media. The posing with a dead body is a pride thing, to show that one has helped take care of that body, it’s a pride in doing a job that society generally shuns,” said Cunningham, the author of the book ‘Sleeping with the Dead’.




In some of the photographs the ambulance workers can be seen pointing at the corpse. “Pointing at a dead body is just something that has come from pointing to small things in pictures to highlight them,” Mr. Cunningham said. “It’s a little strange that the Thais still point at the obvious but [it’s] just something that they have actually picked up from Western media, although interpreted in a sometimes bizarre way.”

Mr. Cunningham said he believed the culture was slowly changing to align with Western values, and he had recently seen some volunteers begin to pixelate their gory images. But he said he respected the way the Thai people accept death and do not shy away from it. “I now realise how obsessed with the ‘horror’ of death that Westerners are,” Mr. Cunningham said. “For Thais it’s sad to say goodbye but they see it just as the end of one journey and the start of another. We wish them well on their next journey and hope we meet them in the next life to be friends again.”




So whether you are offended by the pictures you see almost every day in the ‘Land of Smiles’ it is always better to remember this is simply the way we do things in this country

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1 comment

  1. Steve - November 29, 2016 8:02 pm

    I’ve been in Thailand for over three years now, married to a very nice Thai lady whose family lives around 4 hours south of us. I recall the first time I drove down to see them in my new pick up, instead of taking the coach, and was aghast at the attitude of Thai drivers out on the open road. I drove at a demure 90kmh, and was overtaken by almost everything, mostly at well over 120kmh, including highway coaches, regardless of how crummy the road was.. It freaked me out a bit, and worse was rounding a fairly sharp bend to come upon a very recent accident, I actually recognized the car that appeared to have lost control in the bend and wiped out and other car, both ending up in the median in smoking pieces and crap everywhere, including bodies. I went to pull over with two others already stopped and my wife started screaming at me to keep going, don’t stop, totally contrary to my initial reaction.. I had already pulled over maybe 50 meters past the crash and looked back.. other cars had stopped too, people running across the road and pointing their phones at the carnage, appearing to snap away happily for a bit before they ran back across the road, dodging cars that paid no attention to either the crash or the observers, and continued to floor it past the gruesome scene.
    That night when we were all sitting around at her parents, with a large collection of family, one of her uncles and a friend were happily thumbing through some magazines from a brother in law who was a cop and pointing out this and that, and as a guest, I was offered one and on the cover was a nasty car smash and a set of legs sticking out from under the car.. The whole magazine was full of gore and indescribable scenes of carnage, gleefully commented on by these guys and passed around for all to see.. Terrible stuff, but they seemed unfazed and almost humoured by the photos… I didn’t sleep well that night..


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