Sticky Rice and Toy Trucks: Thai Town Honors Tradition in Tragedy 糯米與玩具 泰國托兒所喪禮盡顯對傳統尊重
文/Sui-Lee Wee、Ryn Jirenuwat
There were so many coffins — 19 in all — that they lined an entire wall of the Wat Rat Samakee temple. A long white string, a Buddhist symbol of purity and protection, ran across their tops. Placed around each coffin were items to carry the young children into the afterlife: a Spiderman outfit, a plush kitty, juice boxes, grilled pork and toy trucks, many of them.
The town of Uthai Sawan on Saturday started formally mourning their dead, 36 of them. Twenty-three were children in a day care center who died Thursday when a former police officer shot and stabbed them in a rampage. There was Asia, 3, who loved cycling and was allowed to ride his bike inside his house. Lying several coffins away was Daen, 4, who loved Matchbox cars.
Uthai Sawan is a rural town of about 6,000 in northeastern Thailand. The funerals had to be split across three temples. Monks from neighboring provinces traveled to the town to help with the funeral rites. On Saturday morning, the framed photograph of Athibodin Silumtai, whom everyone called Asia, was still not ready because there was only one photo shop in town, said Khamphong Silumtai, his great-aunt.
"It just feels like this is not his time to go," said Khamphong, 46. "He is too young and too innocent. He was gone too soon."
Thailand is a majority-Buddhist country, where the faithful believe that making merits, or doing good deeds, is essential for the deceased to live well in the afterlife. Funerals are often carried out with that goal in mind.
Phra Winai, who has been ordained for 24 years, said he traveled to Uthai Sawan from nearby Loei province to see if he could help. He said he has carried out funeral rites for young children who died by drowning or in accidents, but "never anything like this."
"This is such a tragedy," Phra Winai said. But, he said, the tenets of Buddhist teaching are that life is a cycle involving birth, aging, suffering and death.
"Look at nature: When a tree gives fruit, the fruit does not always ripen." he said. "The young fruit can fall when there's wind," he added. "Life is so unpredictable and uncertain. We can't do anything with this uncertainty."
Growing up in the Netherlands, with its network of pathways, its flat landscape and its bicycle-friendly traffic laws, brothers Ties and Taco Carlier were commuting with their parents on bikes by age 4. Many families in the country didn't own cars.
But traveling to New York and other cities as adults, the Carliers realized that few people commuted on bikes in the same way they did back home, turned off by the sprawl, the hills and the weather. The experience planted the seed for what would become one of the world's hottest bicycle brands.
In a bike market remade by the pandemic, VanMoof, the Dutch e-bike company started by the brothers, has been among the biggest winners. With a simple and stylish design and clever integration of technology, the company has drawn comparisons to Apple and Tesla and has attracted a loyal and fast-growing customer base among urban professionals in Europe and the United States.
"We wanted to change the bike in the way it functions, but also from a technology perspective," Ties Carlier said in a video interview from the company's headquarters in the Netherlands.
"Amsterdam is very small and flat, but most cities in the rest of the world are very hilly and can be really hot in the summer, and the distances are much further," he said. "But those limitations really change completely when you have electric bikes."
Once seen by consumers as unreliable, expensive and ugly, battery-powered bikes are now one of the fastest-growing forms of urban transportation. With simplified designs, new corporate and government incentive policies and more awareness about the environmental benefits of cycling versus driving, VanMoof estimates industry sales will hit $46 billion by 2026, double pre-pandemic predictions.
Changes to urban transportation prompted by the coronavirus pandemic can be seen around the world, with commuters having abandoned public transit because of COVID fears. Paris roads are crowded with cyclists taking advantage of new bike lanes and lower automobile speed limits. Berlin is building a cycling "superhighway" across the city. And in New York, home to the largest urban bike network in the nation, ridership soared so much, there was even a problem finding places to park a bicycle.