Debt dispute drives Thai woman to fatal self-immolation with niece

Photo courtesy of Sanook

Tragedy struck yesterday when a 66 year old woman and her 14 year old disabled niece were found dead after self-immolation (the act of setting fire to oneself) in a remote area of Chumphon Province, Thailand. The harrowing incident was reported to the police by local authorities, prompting an immediate investigation by officers from Na Sak Police Station, alongside forensic experts and emergency rescue teams.

The scene, a solitary house nestled amidst a palm oil plantation over 10 kilometres from Asia Highway 41, revealed the charred remains of Uthai Chana and her young niece Kanoknapa, who suffered from a muscle-weakening disease since childhood. Investigators discovered beside the bodies a letter penned in anguish, expressing the woman’s intent to end her life and that of her dependent niece due to an unresolved financial dispute with her sister.

Uthai, a village health volunteer, was reportedly driven to despair after her sister failed to repay a loan of 60,000 baht (US$1,661), leading to familial tensions and disputes. In the lead-up to the tragic event, Uthai attended a community meeting and later returned home on a neighbour’s motorcycle.

By evening, her 39 year old daughter, Oy Thip, who lived nearby, witnessed the fire at her mother’s house and the subsequent death of her relatives, reported Sanook.

The police collected the suicide note as evidence while Oy Thip recounted the distress her mother faced over the unpaid debt that spanned more than two years. The conflict had escalated to the point where Uthai’s sister blocked access to her house with wood and stakes, only relenting after village elders mediated the dispute.

The financial strain of caring for her disabled granddaughter, coupled with her sister’s taunting refusal to settle the debt, is believed to have pushed Uthai to the edge.

While relatives did not suspect foul play, authorities plan to conduct a thorough autopsy at Chumphon’s Sawee Hospital to conclusively determine the cause of death. The bodies will then be released to the family for religious rites.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai), or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai). Please also contact your friends or relatives at this time if you have feelings of loneliness, stress, or depression. Seek help.

Thailand News

Samantha Rose

Samantha was a successful freelance journalist who worked with international news organisations before joining Thaiger. With a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from London, her global perspective on news and current affairs is influenced by her days in the UK, Singapore, and across Thailand. She now covers general stories related to Thailand.

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