Bangkok Body Collectors

Topics Society

Synopsis

Every night in Bangkok, Thailand, dozens of private ambulance teams roam the streets and alleys of the sprawling mega-city of south-east Asia to collect the injured and the dead.

The city has an average of four violent crimes and three fatal road accidents reported each hour of the night; there is no shortage of work for these private ambulance teams.

Thailand does not have a state-run emergency system, and most hospitals lack rescue vehicles and emergency room resources. For the most part, the ambulance teams are funded by private foundations, based in Bangkok’s Chinatown, operating on donations.

For every corpse the teams deliver to a hospital, they are paid 500baht, or around $16; for the injured, they sometimes receive generous donations from the victim’s relatives. These young men listen intently to police scanners, local traffic reports and the radio chatter of the city’s legions of taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. When they hear of pile-ups, altercations, or any of the city’s ever-present accidents, they leap into their vehicles and speed to the scene.

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