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Bangkok man who kept wife's body at home for 21 years finally lets go

BANGKOK (THE NATION) - A 72-year-old man who lived with the body of his late wife for 21 long years is keeping her cremated remains in his house and turning himself into a foundation volunteer to spend the rest of his life doing good for her.

After the story of Mr Charn Janwatchakal, 72, living alone with the body of his late wife for more than two decades was unveiled last Saturday (April 30), several netizens called him the "endless love man" or man with "eternal love".

In the latest development, prominent lawyer Nitithorn Kaewto visited Mr Charn on Monday and interviewed him. The lawyer recounted that the old man is well-educated, with several degrees to his name. But he lived less than a modest life without even electricity after the loss of his wife.

The endearing man lives alone in a small ramshackle one-floor concrete house, which looks like a tiny storage room, on a 780 sq m plot in Soi Raminthra 3 in Tha Reng sub-district, Bangkok's Bang Khen district.

The house, with windows and doors fallen out, had no electricity or water; the old man lived on water shared by a neighbour.

On April 29, Mr Charn visited the Phet Kasem Bangkok Foundation to seek help in cremating his wife's body. A female executive of the foundation was puzzled as she thought the old man lived alone. She had visited him every day during the past two months to give him food and drink after the foundation rescued him following a motorcycle accident.

It later came to light that the man kept the body of his wife in a coffin in the small room where he slept. He said he talked to the body as if his wife were still alive. He finally decided to cremate her for fear that nobody would give her a proper ceremony after his death.

It was a heartbreaking scene when the old man was seen at the foundation on Facebook Live, sobbing and bidding his wife's coffin a final goodbye.

"Mum," he cried, "you are just going for a brief business and you'll be back home again. It won't be long, I promise."

Mr Charn kept his word as he put the cremated remains in a white cloth the following day and took them home to place them in the same room.

Staff from the foundation visited the dilapidated house to clean it up. They removed a lot of weeds and dry leaves from the compound, fixed the roof and wired electricity for him the day after the cremation.

Mr Charn told Mr Nitithorn he used to live with his wife and two sons but after his wife died and he decided to keep her body, the two sons moved out as they could not accept his decision.

When Mr Nitithorn visited the old man on Monday, foundation workers had not yet finished cutting the tree branches or fixing and cleaning the house.

The foundation has now given him a new mattress, blanket and pillow.

The old man told Mr Nitithorn that he had graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacy at Chulalongkorn University before becoming a medic in the Royal Thai Army. He also graduated from a traditional medicine course and went on to grow several herbs in his compound. His knowledge of herbs helped him survive a snake bite twice in his house.

And that is not all. Mr Charn also received a law degree from Ramkhamhaeng Open University and got a licence to represent plaintiffs or defendants in court in 1984.

According to the lawyer, when the man's wife was alive, they had planned to build a bigger house but the contractor fled as soon as he received the first payment. After his wife died, Mr Charn was not interested any more in pursuing the construction.

During the day, he rested with his cats and dogs in a small space beside the house. At night, he slept beside his wife's coffin in a room that used to be storage quarters.

Mr Charn told Mr Nitithorn that he would from now on work as a volunteer for the foundation to do merit for his late wife. He has also allowed the foundation to keep its rescue boats, which are used for flood operations, in the house compound. In return, foundation staff promised to visit and take care of him daily.

The lawyer also bought Mr Charn a bed and gypsum boards for building a new house.

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