Thai man who disappeared 19 years ago back ‘from the dead’

Somsuk and his mother — Photo: Sanook
Somsuk and his mother — Photo: Sanook

A 50-year-old Thai man who had been missing for 19 years returned home last Thursday, shocking the family who had long believed he was dead.

Tipped off by locals about the man’s reappearance, reporters from Thai-language media outlets traveled to meet Somsuk Somying yesterday in Surin province’s Sangkha District.

The story he told them was both harrowing — one doesn’t need to look further than the scars he now has on his forehead, both ears and right leg to see that much — but gaps of years in his tale suggest there’s a lot so far being left unsaid.

Somsuk, according to Khaosod, left home to find construction work in Bangkok with a Surin neighbor in 1999, when he was just 31. However, the neighbor allegedly abandoned him, leaving Somsuk, who is allegedly illiterate, confused and stranded in the big city.

Over the next few years, he reportedly fell into odd jobs, mostly construction, to sustain himself.

Why he never asked for help or sought to return home is unclear, though things apparently took a turn for the worse in 2015, when a fisherman friend offered him a job in Phuket, arranged by a frontman in Samut Prakan province.

The frontman allegedly kept his national ID card for unspecified reasons, reported Matichon, something far from unheard of in Thailand’s oft-pilloried fishing industry.

While on the boat, Somsuk said his time was spent doing drugs with fellow fisherman, who he said regularly beat him — resulting in the many scars on his body. A short jail stint in Malaysia allegedly followed, though no specifics were offered.

According to Sanook, it was with the help of the non-profit Paveena foundation, a human-trafficking NGO, that he finally made it back to Thailand. After briefly being investigated by police for not possessing a national ID card, he was given the benefit of the doubt and finally returned to his family last week.

“I didn’t come home because I can’t read at all,” said Somsuk. “But I have to admit that I’ve really missed home and my mother.”

Meanwhile, Somsuk’s cousin, 55-year-old Boonchuay Thongjan, told local reporters the man’s entire family had given him up for dead after exhausting every search avenue they could think of, eventually throwing him a traditional funeral two years ago.  

Sanook reported that the family is elated to have him back. As Somsuk told reporters his tale, his 72-year-old mother reportedly burst into tears.

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