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A Surin family convinced that Somsak Somying had died after being missing for years held a funeral with an empty coffin to finally put his memory to rest.
Imagine their surprise on Thursday when Somsak, now 50, walked through the door.
Mum Euat Somying, 72, was still in floods of tears when Sanook caught up with the family on Tuesday.
She said: “I always missed and thought about him. I thought he was dead. I always made merit for him. I never will want anything else ever again”.
Sanook noticed that Somsak had injuries to both ears and his forehead as he recounted what had happened to him over the last 19 years.
At first he went with friends to work in construction in Bangkok when he was 31 in 1999. His friends deserted him and because he couldn’t read he found it hard to know how to get home.
He was homeless and did odd jobs for a while before ending up in Phuket. He worked on a fishing boat and had his Thai ID taken from him by the agent who got him the job.
On the boat he was tortured – he said he was beaten up by other people on the vessel who did drugs.
He wound up being arrested in Malaysia and spent several months in jail there.
After being repatriated to Thailand he worked in an ice factory before he was checked out by police for having no ID.
He was helped by Paveena Hongsakul of the foundation that bears her name and eventually found his way to the family’s home in Ban Sangkha, Sankha sub-district of Surin for a reunion.
A ceremony of welcome in which rice is offered was conducted.
Elder sister Nuanjan Somying said that the family had recovered 40,000 baht in wages owed to her brother for work on the boat – it didn’t seem much for all the time he was away but the best thing was to have him back safe and sound.
A relative called Bunchuay Thongjan told Sanook that the family gave up hope of ever seeing Somsak again. So about two years ago they held a funeral without a body according to ancient beliefs.
They cremated an empty coffin to finally put him to rest.