Pbakuu is a man, at a guess in his mid forties. He is well built, especially for a Thai man, and his skin is dark from a life lived outside in the sunshine. He doesn’t say much but has a smile for everyone. It is a smile that is impossible not to return, creasing his whole face into a tight bundle of wrinkles.
He is a regular visitor to our house, as he is Sinuan’s brother. As far as I can tell has no home of his own. Instead, he wanders around the locality, spending time with his extended family and friends. Everybody seems to welcome him and he is usually at any party there may be. Often dancing with a big grin on his face.
Some nights he joins us for food and/or whisky in the evening. He watches TV with us (although I’m usually reading a book) and plays games with the kids. On those nights I know he stays over in the outdoor kitchen at the back of the house. I assume he does something similar elsewhere on other evenings though I can’t be sure.
I think he does a few odds jobs for people in return for small amounts of money. He then normally spends this a couple of doors down on a sweet treat or some whisky. Mostly however he seems to rely on the kindness and hospitality of his friends and family and luckily, in this community, there is no shortage of this kindness.
When he comes round to Sinuan’s he is greeted warmly, both by the family and by the regulars who drink here. I have often seen a man share his whisky with him, giving me the unequivocal impression it is his honour to drink with Pbakuu.
You see there is something I haven’t told you about Pbakuu. He is mentally disabled. A disability severe enough that he still seems somewhat childlike in his manner.
Unlike the UK where there are various government funds and allowances for those with a disability, it seems this is not the case here (though of course I could be wrong on this one too).
Instead it is the community that have rallied around him and together look after him. It is simplicity of it all that brings a tear to my eye. He needs help, so everybody gives it to him, but without an once of pity and with all the dignity in the world. He is treated with the same respect that I saw the in the way the Headmaster, now wheelchair bound, treated.