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TUESDAY, September 27, 2022
nationthailand
Faith restored on a muddy riverbank

Faith restored on a muddy riverbank

WEDNESDAY, October 21, 2015
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Chat Ubonjinda's ingenious rescue of a foreign couple in trouble demonstrates what's still possible in these mean and apathetic times

 
 
Noble acts of kindness appear to be rare these days. People who go out of their way to help strangers in need might seem in short supply. So it should come as no surprise that Chat Ubonjinda garnered headlines at home and abroad this week for rescuing a Norwegian photographer and his partner when they got stuck knee-deep in the mud on a bank of the Krabi River, where they were bird-watching.
Unable to pull the couple out by grip alone, Chat lay face down in the muck so they could clamber out onto his back, using him as an anchor. A Thai photographer who happened to be nearby recorded this wonderful act of kindness, to the cheers and delight of viewers around the world.
Chat clearly didn’t think he was doing anything heroic, but nor did he hesitate when he saw people in trouble. Judging from the video clip, he didn’t seem to expect a “reward” other than the couple’s thanks – he simply walked off to wash up – but he became an international champion.
The foreign couple and local authorities, including the governor of Krabi, did indeed bestow rewards on Chat once the footage circulated. He also received a “certificate of appreciation” from the Tourism Council of Thailand, and then was taken to Bangkok so that Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul could give him a plaque and praise his selfless act as model behaviour. Tomorrow Her Royal Highness Princess Bhajara Kitiyabha will present him with an “honorary jacket”.
Chat, a construction worker and casual fisherman, says he’s surprised by the deluge of praise. His modesty stems from the fact that he acted on instinct and from the belief that anyone in the same situation would have responded just as he did. But would they? The remarkable video notwithstanding, why do we attach such significance to this fleeting moment on a rural riverbank, and why do we feel such admiration for this man?
We do because such actions – aid rendered genuinely to strangers – have become a rarity in these coarse and apathetic times, when all too often the merely trivial is enough to create sensation.
It should be kept in mind that acts of kindness can pose risks to health and safety. Chat’s back is sprained from the weight he sustained. Readily recalled is the Thai actor who years ago offered assistance at the scene of a road accident and was struck by a passing car, leaving him paralysed. Criminals routinely prey on kind people offering help.
As a result, wariness and suspicion might stop us from stepping forward even when the heart urges us on. Some viewers of Chat’s noble effort initially wondered if it was a set-up, an attempt to gain recognition or reward. No long ago there was a Bangkok taxi driver who claimed to have returned a sizeable amount of money to a foreign tourist rushing to catch a flight, but, after being showered with awards and admiration, he admitted he’d made it all up.
In showing kindness to strangers, we of course have to be careful about such risks and possible abuses, yet this shouldn’t prevent us from doing what, on first instinct, seems right. Lost in an unfamiliar place, we require the guidance of a stranger. In danger, we hope for rescue.
Chat’s lack of hesitation in leaping to the couple’s assistance helps restore our belief in humanity. In the face of all the mean and selfish people who seek to take advantage, there are surely countless others ready to go out of their way to help when there’s trouble. Humankind forms a single community. We are a social animal, after all, given more to mutual aid than competing with one another.