ONE A DAY
Editor’s note: The following is a submission by the American Legion Post TH02 in Pattaya Thailand. It focuses specifically on a US military combat veteran, however, gives a lot of insight behind the scenes into what happens in general when a foreign national passes away in Thailand. This is part two of four that we will post over the next week or so. -Adam Judd, Chief Editor, The Pattaya News English
If you missed part one, please click here for the full article. This article will not make sense without reading part one.
We first received an email from the individual’s father that I initially dismissed as a scam. After receiving a second email we took the request a little more seriously. A response was sent asking what it was we could do. After this, we received a little more detailed email with contact information and additional details. A phone call was made and after this initial conversation, it was apparent the 85-year-old father was at a loss for what to do and how to do it. He admitted his inability to use email effectively and sought assistance from a family friend. We immediately offered to assist the family. Unfortunately, the timing was bad as the US Embassy was closed for a four-day holiday.
A video conference was set up on Friday 28 July between the Officers of American Legion Post TH02. Based on the conversation with the family the best option was to have the deceased cremated and the remains returned to the states. The return of a body from Thailand is an extremely costly process.
Contact was made with the US Embassy on Monday 31 July following the long weekend. We offered to assist the family and the US Embassy was receptive to our assistance. After receiving confirmation from the family, a letter was drafted authorizing us to act on behalf of the family. This letter is titled: “Introducing a representative for deceased American Citizen”. Until we had this letter in our possession there was nothing we could do at this point with the exception of preplanning.
On Tuesday 1 August arrangements were made at a Wat (temple) to receive the individual and perform the funeral rites prior to cremation. Another member of TH02 went to the US Embassy and received the letter that allowed us to begin our part. The letter was mailed to the Adjutant. This letter was received on Thursday. In the meantime, calls were made to the Police and the forensic hospital for details on what was needed to proceed.
The beginning of this process was to meet with the investigating police officer and present the letter to him. An appointment with the police officer was established and the Adjutant met with him on Friday, August 5. The Adjutant was able to get the personal effects of the deceased member and the first important document. The document was the police report. The police report was needed by the forensic Hospital prior to the release of the body. Also, in the personal effects a copy of the individual’s DD214 was found and a copy of his VA award letter. This was confirmation of the individual’s veteran status. It was determined the individual was a combat medic and a veteran of the US Navy.
On Saturday, August 6th the Commander and Adjutant traveled to the Institute of Forensic Medicine Bangkok. The office was filled with dozens of media personnel interviewing family members who were dealing with their own tragedies after a horrible fire at a nightclub that claimed the life of 19 young Thais.
The copy of the police report and letter was presented to the clerk and the first real snag occurred. The clerk insisted that the police report presented was not an original but a copy. After insisting that what was given was what was received from the police officer the process ground to a halt. Luckily for us, the individual from the Wat (temple) who was there to transport the deceased came to our rescue. His experience with this office was invaluable to get things smoothed over. After completing additional paperwork all of which was in Thai the process was back on track. After about 15 minutes we were called back into the office and received the “cause of death paperwork” or as we know it the autopsy report and the release of the body. The transport personnel received the body and transported it to the Wat (temple).
On Monday 8 August the Adjutant returned to the police station to provide the police officer with the “cause of death paperwork”. This document allowed the police officer to close his case as it was determined by the Institute of Forensic Medicine Bangkok the death was from natural causes. He then provided another document showing the case was closed and a Thai death certificate could be issued.
Leaving the police station and traveling to the Pattaya City Hall with all necessary documents the Adjutant was able to secure a Thai Death Certificate. This concluded the necessary documentation.
The Thai Death Certificate and the cause of death were then sent to the US Embassy to allow them to issue the US death certificate known as Report of an American Citizen Abroad.
This event of the passing of an American Citizen set a series of involvement from many, many individuals. Starting with the hotel owners and staff, the police officers, the ambulance, the hospital attendants, forensic hospital doctors, and administrative personnel, monks and Wat employees, city hall staff, and of course our veterans and their families. All these individuals played a part in this process. All this from the death of one US Navy Veteran.
To be continued….