PRESS RELEASE – 30 April, 2018
Thailand 1997 Impression – BANGKOK POST – Article 5 of 5
Summary: this series of 5 articles are from the copy of the Bangkok Post I’ve held on to for 20 years. The morning of Sunday 15 June, 1997 I boarded a flight at Changi Airport in Singapore to fly to Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. It was my first trip ever to Thailand. On the plane I was given a copy of that day’s edition of the Bangkok Post. I’ve saved a memorable section of that paper for these past 20 years.
This fifth (of 5) articles is the feature stories presented that day in the paper. It outlines the phenomenon that, at least 20 years ago, seemed to be deeply ingrained in some factions of the Thai culture. It goes into depth regarding these frequent cases of PENICIDE (The act of killing or mortally wounding a male’s penis.)
While You Were Sleeping
PAINFUL PHENOMENON: Following that famous case 20 years ago where a woman cut off her husband’s penis and fed it to their ducks, the act has become widespread among Thai women seeking revenge against their unfaithful partners; is this more about Thai sexual culture than sheer feminine vengeance?
– CHITRAPORN VANASPONG
Due to the popularity of impulsive surgery by wives on wander (lusting) husbands, Thai surgeons have acquired the most extensive microsurgical experience on earth for penile reattachment.
Dr Suruak Muangsumbat, head of Sirirat Hospital’s surgery department said: “It is not that we have developed better medical technology than other countries. It’s just that we have performed the operation so many times that we have become expert.”
Following an initial success in 1977, the Sirirat surgical team chalked up 31 other surgical success stories, “more than any other country m the world.” Dr Sorasak claimed.
“There are same unsuccessful cases too,” admitted Dr Sonsak.
The main reason why doctors can not reattach the organ is cell decay which is irreversible after six hours. The other usual reason is that the detached appendage could not be found. One wife had buried it underground and could not find it despite strong persuasion from others.
This stuff is a gold mine for toilet humour, but each story is painfully true.
One victim came to the hospital with his penis, within the prescribed time limit. The operation could not succeed. Why? The wife had dropped the penis into boiling water. Another wife sliced the offending appendage into pieces, like a cucumber in a salad
Although men can live without a penis, their psychological state all but kills them. A man thinks it is the most important organ of his body. (We women don’t understand that feeling.)
Dr Surasak and his team have tried many ways of retrieving a detached sex organ so that they can reattach it. In one incident an individual had to open up septic tanks and sift through the toilet filth. In one case, relatives had to bribe the wife to reveal where she had hidden it.
The major reason Thai men find their signature appendage chopped off is their philandering. In 30 out of 31 case, it was the loving partner who did the cutting most were first wives, although some cases were committed by second wives. Only one case was done by a third wife.
IT’S ALL CULTURE
“The reason » by it happens more in Thailand than anywhere else in the world is, I think, our culture how Thai people perceive sex, relationships and marriage,” said Dr Surasak.
The mia noi (minor wife) is a Thai tradition that continues today.
According to a study in Topten Thailand News, only 18 percent of Thai men think keeping a minor wife is wrong, while 82 percent say it is all right.
This is confirmed by Mathew Fletcher and Julian Gearing, who quoted two businessmen in their story published in Asigweek. Neither has any complaint about their legal wives, but both secretly maintain second households. They say there is no problem as long as their wives don’t know.
One of them said “My wife and I are happy together. But I need more than this. It’s only natural. Men are that way.”
But the way Thai men think about their right to have more than one woman is in contrast to what the Thai social educational system says. Also, Thai women view polygamy in a different way.
“Unlike Muslim women who learn to accept polygamy as a social and religious rule. Thai women are taught that monogamy is the basis of a happy married life,” commented Dr Kritaya Achavanijkul of Mahidol University’s Institute of Population and Social Research.
Women feel monogamy is more modern and progressive. They also cling to the idea of sticking to one husband for life. There is an old Thai saying that goes: “It is better to lose a head-high pile of gold than a husband.”
Mary Wrinkler, an American anthropologist, underscore the gender dilemma of the mia noi issue in her paper presented to the Thai Study Conference in Chiang Mai last year.
Ms Wrinkler said that when a woman accepts the knowledge that her husband has other women, she experiences emotional pain as well as a damaged social identity.
Take Daeng, for example. Daeng is married to a real playboy. After she settled into married life, he went on with a series of extramarital sexual relationships.
“I thought I had prepared myself for this, but you know, I am a woman I really could not accept it.”
While her husband knows that it upset her, he expects her to be rational about it in a practical way: “You still get the same monthly allowance. I am not spending your money on others, so you should not worry.”
He rationalised how the mia noi did not affect Daeng’s easy life, so she should allow him to keep the girl. The only thing he asked of her was not to get too involved. How did Daeng feel?
“What could I say? I agreed. OK. But then, I really agonised over it. On the outside I was fine. But deep down it was killing me! I decided not to say anything to him about it ever again, but in my heart there was no more happiness.”
And because Thai people give so much importance to ‘face’ and status, Wrinkler said, women suffer silently, live with the fact that their husbands have other women and put on a public face of “everything is fine”.
“It is a matter of shame that prevents them from admitting things openly. That shame comes from the responsibility that society expects of women to maintain a happy marriage.” said Ms Wrinkler.
“This is not just patriarchal domination. I actually hear more women than men blaming wives for the ‘failure’ to keep the husband happy and the family intact.”
Men, particularly in the middle class, also wish to preserve their social identities as family men.
When his wife tried to break a legally registered marriage because of his three mia nois, Somchai, 33, refused. This what he said to Me Wrinkler:
“The first couple years of marriage I used to go out quite a bit. We would go for service girls. But Aids came along and I realised the danger.
“Then I got a regular girl. My wife used to fight a lot in those days. Really bad. She finally asked for a divorce. Actually twice. But I would not allow it. I wanted to keep her. We cannot divorce because we are good people.”
SYMBOL OF POWER
So how does a woman cultivate an act of violence out of her pain?
All pressure women carry as a burden creates violence, said Dr Suwattana Areepak a psychiatrist at the Chulalongkorn Hospital.
Because her husband has a mia noi, a woman tries to find a solution, which may not be logical or well-reasoned committing crimes, killing the husband, the minor wife, or even hurting or killing herself.
“Traditionally, Thai women are also financially dependent. Because men provide the money, men rule the household and do what they want. Women suffer silently. But one day it all comes out,” said Dr Suwattana.
But why the penis?
Dr Kritaya of Mahidol University has a theory.
“I don’t think it’s just violence,” she said. The act of cutting the penis is a defence mechanism. You must also understand that women have a sense of adoration and possession of her man’s penis.
But the Thai sexual mentality is this; sharing her beloved thing with other women is painful. Thus, she protects herself from the pain by cutting it off.”
This, Dr Kritaya says, explains largely how the Thais view sexual intercourse.
“It is not a mutual thing; it doesn’t mean being active or passive. For Thai men, the penis is the centre of lovemaking. If you have a big, long, and strong penis, you have good sex. And this attitude is confirmed by the mass media, particularly the sexual ones.
“See how Thais create nicknames for penises? There is Jao Lok [the world ruler], or Mangkorn Yak [giant dragon].”
Women are aware of the value men put on their sexual organs. Thus, women find a way out of their hurt by attacking him where it hurts most, both physically and symbolically.
“They deserve it,” said Dr Suwattana. “It is also the fault of the men. Don’t you think so?”
HOPE FOR THE HOPEFUL
Dr Surasak must look like an angel to those who lost their manhood. Under his nimble fingers, severed members are gently, expertly sutured and nurtured back to life.
If the victim and his severed penis can reach the doctor in time (see side bar), the microsurgical procedure takes between six to ten hours.
Reattaching the penis is easier than reattaching a finger, because there are no bones in the penile shaft, said Dr Surasak. There are only four blood vessels, two veins, two nerves, and the urinary tube that has to be stitched together.
The final procedure involves reattaching the connective tissues and the outer skin. It sounds easy. However, it takes a longer time before the owner can engage in sexual intercourse.
“The wound will recover after three weeks,” said Dr Surasak, “but it takes about six weeks for the shaft to recover its strength.
“During this period we give the patient pornographic tapes or magazines to incite erections. We do this until the third month, when the sex organ is fully recovered enough for making love.”
In most cases, despite the doctor’s urging for patients to try and have sex, most fear it would fall off again.
Doctors can do nothing about this:
It’s up to each person to think and believe they are ready for sexual activity. On the sensual side, it takes six to twelve months for the nerves to be able to feel an orgasm.
It is hard to tell whether all penile reattachment victims ever get back to leading completely normal lives; most never come back to see Dr Surasak. Only four out of all the cases came beck for the suggested post-assessment period of two years.
“We know that two of them remarried and had kids; after that they just disappeared,” said Dr Surasak.
HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS
Is there hope for those who could not find the amputated organ?
Records show of a surgical implant of an artificial penis made from silicone.
In 1987, the Police General Hospital surgical team transplanted a penis from a transvestite who underwent transsexual surgery, to a man who lost his: The first penis transplant case in the world, the hospital claims.
Dr Surasak, however, admits that all these take time and a lot of money.
“It is best to prevent it from happening. Isn’t it easier to simply have one wife and not fool around?”
A SOFT CRIME?
Viewing penicide from a moral or human-rights angle is interesting.
Although penis-hacking incidents appear once in a while in newspapers headlines, the public does not seem to take the issue seriously. Instead, a sense of the ridiculous is reported among readers. Most women react with, “Yes, he deserved it.”
According to Article 297 of the Criminal Law Code, one who hurts another’s genitals feces a minimum jail term of two years, ten at the most.
In practice, the police are more concerned with thumping the law book on deadly criminals, robbers, murderers, and narcotic traders than tearful housewives.
Besides, the men themselves do not want to see their wives in jail, Dr Surasak said that, although they do not return to their wives, they do not sue their wives either.
“First, they don’t want to publicise their toss Second, putting her in trouble will affect the well-being of their kids. Lastly, they think it’s somehow their fault, too.”
Although the law clearly labels penicide a crime, human rights activist and layers such as Thongbai Thongpao are reluctant to point a finger at the woman.
Thongbai agrees men should have only one woman.
“It is a good lesson for a man, but women have to know that this is illegal. It affects herself and her kids. Cutting off the penis doesn’t really help solve the problem. The best way is to educate Thai men as a whole, especially the new generation that is growing up.”
In effect, there is a deeper wound in society that needs looking into, deeper than any wound a woman can inflict on a sleeping man.