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Buddhist Body Snatchers

Bangkok’ s Buddhist Body Snatchers

[T]he Por Tek Tung Foundation [is] Bangkok’s largest provider of emergency medical services. Created by Chinese immigrants in Thailand’s capital more than 100 years ago, Por Tek Tung began by offering free funeral services for the city’s poor, and now specializes in quick-response rescues. You can spot its staff—over a thousand, nearly all unpaid—by their distinctive blue jumpsuits as they drive around in packs, on the lookout for road accidents.

If this sounds a touch morbid, consider that last year alone a motorist was killed in Bangkok every 36 minutes. The city has five and a half million registered vehicles; drivers scorn speed limits and traffic rules, and unhelmeted motorcyclists carelessly zip in and out of congested lanes. The result is regularly lethal.

Por Tek Tung also handles murders, airplane crashes, collapsed buildings, and boating mishaps. But whatever the tragedy, the foundation’s main duty is “body-snatching”—rushing the still-living to hospitals and ferrying the dead to morgues. …

They are all volunteers.