Thai man working illegally in South Korea enters coma, family pleads for help

A Thai man working illegally in South Korea is in a coma after undergoing urgent surgery for a brain haemorrhage. His family is doing everything they can to coordinate his return to Thailand.

His family says that 40 year old Narong Fanphua from Thoen district, Lampang province, northern Thailand, has been a ‘Little Ghost’ (slang for a Thai person illegally working in South Korea) since 2018.

Recently, Narong fell ill at his accommodation and his employer rushed him to hospital to find that he had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke.

At the hospital, Narong underwent urgent brain surgery on January 19. After the surgery, Narong did not wake up. He is still unconscious eight days later.

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Narong’s family is worried about his condition and also about his mounting medical bills.

His family understands that Little Ghosts do not have rights in South Korea but wants to do everything they can to have him transferred back to Thailand for treatment.

Narong’s mother Buarat and Narong’s wife Rampaen Muengchuen travelled to the Thoen District Office with the village chief Anuphon Funsai and assistant village chief Buaphat Suepphromma to request help from the district chief Somsak Watcharatadaphong.

However, district chief Somsak is not available due to government training so he has assigned Rattanaporn Chatchairat, the acting district chief, to take care of the matter.

Rattanaporn said he is coordinating with the Lampang Provincial Employment Office as well as the Governor of Lampang to coordinate help from the Thai Embassy in South Korea to hopefully bring Narong back home to Thailand.

It is hard for Narong’s family to find out updates on his condition due to him being an illegal migrant in a different country with no relatives there.

Suwara Pongpanyanate from the Lampang Labour Office said it is a very difficult case because claims for assistance cannot usually be made for Thais illegally working in South Korea in the event of an accident, death, or prosecution.

However, government agencies will still try their best to coordinate Narong’s transfer to a hospital in Thailand by asking for help from the Thai Ministry of Labour’s International Cooperation Department which can contact the South Korean Ministry of Labour.

The family said they decided to publicise their story through the media to warn others against working illegally abroad in case they fall ill and need help.

Narong’s mother Buarat, with tears in her eyes, said she is frightened. She knows the cost of Narong’s medical bills will be high and says her family do not have much money.

Buarat said she previously warned her son that being a Little Ghost was dangerous but Narong still went.

Since Narong moved to South Korea five years ago, he always sends money to his mother and wife, they said.

Narong’s wife Rampaen said that her husband has high blood pressure. He went to Korea five years ago as worked collecting rubbish and doing other jobs.

He never complained that he was sick, said Rampaen. The last time the couple talked on the phone was January 18 before his employer took him to hospital.

Rampaen believes Narong’s employer in South Korea should help with his medical bills and help him to return home.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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