Sangsak was Chang Lek’s sixteen year old nephew; Chang Lek , his wife Paan and his young daughter, Gam, are part of my family, my Akha family. Sangsak was killed while driving his motorbike in Chiangmai. The first question we ask is whether he had on a helmet. He did. Sangsak was driving carefully, but sadly one cannot always escape the inattention of others. In my original draft I had much to say about the cause, the needlessness of his death, the fact that the boy did not receive any medical attention for almost three hours because his parents, both Akha, could not read the forms, did not understand what was happening, and the hospital/doctor wanted to make sure that a form was signed to guarantee payment.
Lek, who speaks Thai and English, was finally notified and rushed to the hospital but too late. Minutes later, the boy’s heart quit beating. Lek (and anyone willing to be observant in the way many humans treat the less fortunate) is all too aware that he is Akha, that his family is Akha. They are hill tribe people and exist at the very bottom of cultural stratification, easily exploited for cheap labor.
Sadly, such unfortunate circumstances thrive everywhere, sustained by greed and disregard. One can see the livid colors of intolerance and racial discrimination in every country.
I did not know him that well, only through Lek, who adored him. Sansak, a promising A student, eager for college, had an opportunity, through education, to bring a bit more light into this world.
“You do not know me,” he said, leaving, “but know
this light I carried, I carry still,
not for me
but for you.”