Picking up the Pieces
[A spate of spousal attacks has made Thai surgeons experts in a gruesome field – penis reattachment]
Time Magazine July 7, 1997
Author’s note: It is believed Thailand has the most nightmarish cases of males having their manhood severed by their jealous spouse. In 1997 Time magazine sent photographer Peter Charlesworth and me to look for the latest victim. Below is the unedited version of my original dispatch.
The Unkindest Cut – Man’s Crying Shame
Chaiyaphum, Northeast Thailand: – It appears like a denuded forest with bushes and shrubs. In an open shade with high corrugated zinc roof, we found Prayoon Eklang, 47, sitting on the concrete floor with half a dozen monks, resting and getting away from the hot afternoon sun. In a corner are two life-size bronze statues of the Buddha, its half closed gaze and lips frozen in perpetual serenity.
We are told this is the village temple, Wat Samakhitham. It is here that Prayoon finally found solace and got back his sanity. Sitting like a Buddha, a saffron robe hanging half across his shoulder, he smiles and laughs, mocking at his misfortune. His chubby and sun-tanned face becomes severe as he breaks into serious thoughts and caution us:
“Please do not ridicule me or make a bad name of Buddhism. If my misfortune is going to benefit society then it is OK for you to write about it.”
This is Prayoon’s story as he tells us on that afternoon in the little village temple where he found refuge.
It was the 15th of March (1997) and it happened around eleven to midnight. I was a ‘tuk tuk’ (3 wheeler taxi) driver in Korat (Nakorn
Rajasima) for the past six years. I had many girlfriends and I like going to bars drinking with friends. My wife Laorng Phengthong, 40, was a very jealous woman. She would cook and wait for me to come home and eat together with me every day.
If I am late or stay away overnight she would go and search for me. Sometimes she finds me drinking with friends, men and women together in a bar or coffee shop. She would create havoc, throw the drinks away and even
One week before the incident a woman friend came to see me and ask me to help her find work. I took her on my tuk tuk and she got a job with a security company as a guard. And every morning I would fetch her to her work place and fetch her back in the evening.
My wife had a stall in the market place. On that fateful day a guy who is a friend of my girlfriend came to the market and asked my wife where is the driver of my tuk tuk parked nearby. He told her the driver is supposed to fetch this woman working in the security company. My wife became suspicious and started asking the guy more questions. She found out my relationship with the woman.
Later she confronted me and went hysterical. She said she wants to find the woman and settle the matter with the three of us. It was around noon. She asked me to pack all her goods from her stall into the tuk tuk and take them home. I remained calm and asked her not to do that. She asks for 200 Baht saying she wants to see a doctor about her allergy. I gave her the money but felt strange because she owns a stall and always have money on her.
I went home about six in the evening. My wife came back about eight. She was very drunk. She starts abusing me and calling me names. She says she went to see the woman but could not find her. She met only her daughter. Tomorrow she will look for her and settles the score. I remained quiet not to provoke her.
It was a Saturday and I was looking forward to watch the boxing telecast at 10 pm. Just before the boxing programme my wife suddenly become very calm and nice. She asks me to take off my shorts and underwear and put on a sarong. I was pleased and flattered. I thought maybe she is sensible now and she wants to have sex.
She takes out two white pills and says the doctor prescribed for her allergy. Since I also had the allergy she persuaded me to take them. I swallowed them and within five minutes I passed out.
It was like an electric spark; I felt great pain. I woke up and looked down, my penis was gone and there were blood everywhere. My wife was sitting four feet away holding a knife. I got up and she ran away out through the backyard – one hand holding a knife and the other my penis. That was the last I saw of her.
I was in great anger and shock and chased after her. My only thought was to get my penis back. I could only go ten meters, I was bleeding profusely and in great pain. She got away through the bushes and wasteland. It was dark and there were rats and other small creatures in the backyard.
I got back to the house, my next thought was the hospital. I put on my shorts and managed to get on the tuk tuk and drive to the hospital. When I arrived I passed out through loss of blood.
When I woke up I was surrounded by scores of reporters. The doctor called the police but the officer ordered me to go to the station and lodge a report. The reporters were furious and told the police to get cracking and come to the hospital to investigate.
The police arrived and left immediately with a group of social welfare volunteers to search for my penis. They combed through my backyard but in vain. I was devastated. They gave me an injection and treated the wound. I slept until noon the next day. The doctor told me the penis could not be found ( for reattachment), there was no more hope. They transferred me to the general hospital and I was brought to the surgery room for treatment.
Neighbors told me that my wife came back the next morning and searched the backyard for my penis. When she failed to find it, she packed her belongings and left. I had not seen her since.
I stayed in the hospital for a total of five days. I never thought that I would end up like this. How she could be so cruel? I was very sad and angry. I nearly went mad. All day long I think of nothing but revenge and I have nothing inside me but anger.
Each one of us is only born with one, now it’s gone! I might as well be dead. I felt like this for months. It only changed when I became a monk.
When I came out of hospital, I came to this village to rest for a month. My wound healed but the orifice became small and I had difficulty urinating. I had to go back to the doctor to fix the urine passage to normal.
I went back to Korat to drive the tuk tuk but my life was a mess. Before I had a wife to take care of my food, washing and a place to go back to. Now I have nothing. I slept in the tuk tuk and I got drunk every night. I could not work and my mind just went crazy. Sometimes in the middle of the street I chased my customer off my vehicle and yelled at them to get lost.
Life had no meaning and I was mad all the time. I was looking for an M16 or a bomb to blow up my wife if I see her. All my friends mocked and ridiculed me even the woman friends looked at me with contempt. They had nothing to say to me. It lasted eight days in Korat.
I came back to the village and on the second day I decided to end it all. I took a rope to hang myself but the beam broke. My neck was red and sore. Then I thought of monk-hood as salvation. Until then life was meaningless. I had no family…nothing left. I had a 23-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter but they never come to see me.
I became a monk after Songkran (water festival). And now bit by bit my sorrows go away, the urge for revenge disappears too. If I kill someone I gain nothing; unlike going to collect a debt of say 10,000 Baht, even if I recover half the amount, it is still something to gain.
However, coming to terms with the impermanence of all living things, as taught by the Buddha, I have found peace in my heart and life for me has become better.