SONGKHLA: Acquaintances of 45-year-old Meechai say he has a history of mental confusion that requires occasional incarceration and treatment; and indeed, as events proved in the early hours of April 16, he has difficulty sorting out questions of right and wrong. Nonetheless, all things considered, his heart seems to be in the right place. Meechai had gone with his aged parents the previous evening to a neighbor’s funeral party, where – to stave off ghosts – the custom is for male mourners to drink liquor till they can hardly stay awake, then stagger off homeward. After getting thoroughly smashed, Meechai took his 85-year-old father, Ming, back to their home. The melancholy gathering had apparently inspired a tender concern in his addled brain. Before leaving the party he was overheard telling a friend, “My parents are old now, and if they continue to live, they’ll have no one to take care of them.” About 1am, the desk officer at Saba Yoy District police headquarters received word of a murder in the house at 12 tambon Khao Dang Moo 1 – Ming’s house – and went with detectives to investigate. Officers found the old man’s corpse inside, amid a pool of blood, his throat cut. Near the body was a bloody, long-handled knife of the type commonly used for cutting rubber trees. Meechai, whom police wanted to talk to (and whose first name means “Is victorious”), was nowhere in sight. Witnesses told police he had probably fled to a relative’s house seeking means of escape. In this case victory had deserted Meechai: investigators quickly tracked the prodigal down and placed him under arrest. He was probably too mixed up to care. “Questioning him at the scene was of no value,” said Pol Sub Lt Sayan Tongsuwan, who spoke to reporters afterwards. “His mind was completely spun-out.” The suspect was therefore taken to Racha Nakarint mental hospital “for a time” till he regains his right senses. Relatives said it was not his first hospital visit; he has long been troubled by “nervous disorders.” “It’s lucky his mother stayed at the funeral party,” said one relative. “She didn’t return till after the incident.” The story of Ming’s murder by his own son, and the reason alleged for it, was instantly picked up by newspapers outside Songkhla, perhaps because Thailand’s elderly find little in the way of state support when they become infirm, and must rely on relatives. “I understand what he was thinking of,” said a local woman, who works in a government office. “When people get old they can be a real burden, and if relatives can’t take care of them, they suffer.” “But I’d have handled it differently; I’d have used poison; it’s kinder,” she opined. “I wonder what led him to believe using a knife like that would keep his father from suffering? He must be crazy.”
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