Connect with us


Aussie helps disabled Phuket cigarette vendor get a leg to stand on

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: A Phuket cigarette vendor who was born with a deformed leg and no hands is on her way to getting a new prosthetic limb, thanks to an Australian visitor and an aluminum recycling project.

Wilaiwan “Wan” Damnui, 33, has been selling cigarettes and chewing gum on Bangla Road for 17 years. In 1999, she received a plaster leg, but it is now broken and uncomfortable.

Although she does not have hands, she does not want them.

“I’m fine the way I am, I just need legs,” she told the Phuket Gazette.

“Legs are more important because they can take me where I want to go, but I don’t know how to get one. My income is low, about 200 baht a day from selling cigarettes,” said Ms Wan, who lives alone in a rented room in Patong.

Enter Derek Clarkson, a 75-year-old Australian who has been coming to Thailand for seven years.

“I come here mainly to ride a motorbike through this beautiful country,” the former professional wrestler said. “I’ve travelled over most of the mainland, and I always find a week to visit Phuket before I go home. I’ve made a lot of friends in Patong and Karon.”

About 4 or 5 years ago, Mr Clarkson first noticed Ms Wan.

“I saw her every night on Bangla Road selling cigarettes and gum. Despite her disability, which obviously makes getting around and doing things difficult, she has a positive attitude and a smile for everyone,” he said.

“I was touched by her independence. She’s not begging, she works – every night. I think she deserves to be helped. I tried to give her money, but she wouldn’t take it. I had to buy something from her!”

Mr Clarkson found a way to get Ms Wan to accept his donations: he folded up his bills so she couldn’t see how much he was paying her until he’d left the scene.

“I would like to help her have a better life. I’ve been saving money for nearly two years in order to pay for a new leg for her,” he said.

A language divide left Mr Clarkson and Ms Wan unable to work out the details of getting a new prosthesis, so Mr Clarkson contacted the Gazette for help.

The answer lay not with a medical center, but with the Phuket Regional Environment Office and their project that turns recycled aluminum into prostheses (story here).

Pornsri Suthanarak, the director of the office, was eager to help.

“I have already contacted the Pollution Control Office in Bangkok. If she meets the physical and economic criteria, we should be able to get her a new aluminum leg for free,” she said.

“The Pollution Control Office in turn will contact the Prostheses Foundation of HRH The Princess Mother as we have a memorandum of understanding to help people.”

“The process could take time, up to three months, but I believe we’ll be able to get her a new leg.”

Mr Clarkson will return home at the end of February.

“I hope that the next time I come to Phuket I will see her with a new leg, walking normally,” he said.

— Saran Mitrarat


Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)15 mins ago

30 million baht added to vaccine side effects compensation fund

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 hour ago

Plan for 16-week gap between AstraZeneca vaccines dropped

Coronavirus (Covid-19)2 hours ago

CCSA: 120 day reopening will proceed with conditions

Phuket Sandbox July 1st


Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Sponsored by image

Tourism3 hours ago

Sandbox latest, CCSA says all regions reopening must reach 70% local vaccination

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Saturday: 3,667 new infections and 32 deaths

Politics6 hours ago

Thamanat elected to role of head ‘fixer’ in Palang Pracharat party

Expats16 hours ago

List: China has over 50% of all foreign-owned condos in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)18 hours ago

Government plans 10 million vaccines for July

World21 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Vaccine deaths investigation, PM heads to Phuket, BMA extends vendor licences | June 18

Thailand21 hours ago

1 million AstraZeneca doses arrive, Anutin says “more” on the way

Drugs22 hours ago

1.2 tonnes of methamphetamine and heroin seized near Malaysian border

Coronavirus (Covid-19)22 hours ago

Pattaya bars plead for government help

Thailand22 hours ago

Colour-coded zoning revised, restrictions to ease nationwide

Transport23 hours ago

Department of Land Transport will reopen, issue licenses

Best of23 hours ago

Top 8 Things to do in Chiang Mai

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8