The 103-year-old symbol of Poh Teck Tung Foundation is the Chinese character “shàn.” It means to perform a meritorious deed. This alphabet was chosen because it represents how the people in the foundation put so much great effort towards help to society and promoting thoughtfulness among Thai people.
Poh Teck Tung Foundation’s ideology is based on Chinese beliefs that have passed from generation to generation. One of the main beliefs is the philosophy of Tai Hong, a monk who was respected by Chinese people, who had been taking unclaimed corpses to bury at the graveyard when he was alive. After his death, Chinese people decided to build his statue, which later on had been installed at Leab Temple in Thailand.
Long ago, there was a plague among the Chinese community, which spread into Thailand. Chinese believers went to Tai Hong’s statue, and begged for his blessing. They donated their clothes, money and coffins. Furthermore, they funded a graveyard for unclaimed corpses. This was considered as the beginning of Poh Teck Tung Foundation.
Until the year 1909, the 12 Chinese businessmen, led by Anuwaratniyom, formed “Tai Hong’s body collecting group.” They hired employers and volunteers to go out and collect unclaimed corpse and bury them. As time went by, the economy suffered through the great depression, King Rama VII decided to give money to help the Tai Hong’s body collecting group 2,000 baht per year, which was a lot at that time. Later on, the group bought land around Plubplachai Road for The Poh Teck Tung joss house.
In 1937, Chinese businessmen gathered up and reformed Tai Hong’s body collecting group by registering as the official foundation and renaming it the “Poh Teck Tung Foundation.” Poh Teck Tung Foundation is the 11th foundation ever createdin Thailand, and contributes to society by being the corpse collectors and funeral arrangers. In that time, there was a Pacific war, which had led many Chinese people to evacuate to Thailand. Poh Teck Tung Foundation then offered them help by providing welfare, such as, taking care of the sick, giving them food, and taking unclaimed corpses to the forest to be buried.
When the war ended, another approximately 170,000 Chinese people fled to Thailand by train, but they also brought unexpected severe plague that caused blindness. As a result, the Thai government decided to confine them for a month. Poh Teck Tung Foundation then took part as helpers by supporting foods, water, medical supplies, and also helping 80,000 Chinese people to get work permits in Thailand.
To many, Poh Teck Tung Foundation is known as an organization that contributes to society by rescuing those who are injured in accidents, saving people’s lives, donating coffins, and conducting funerals for unclaimed corpses, but in reality, it does more. For example, they distribute foods and beverages for accident victims in conflagration areas, guide university students the knowledge in this field of work and share experiences, take those who are drunk home in order to decrease the number of road accidents in Thailand, and help the government officials to resolve public hazards, such as, conflagration, flood, drought, and poverty.
Poh Teck Tung Foundation’s job is not just collecting dead bodies. Actually, they take care of necessary processes the dead bodies, including printing those corpses’ fingerprints, taking pictures, and send them to a forensics laboratory. If no one claims the corpses, Poh Teck Tung Foundation will temporarily bury them at Poh Teck Tung Graveyard for three years, and then cremate them.
1. Collecting bodies – 100 years ago, Bangkok was not yet developed transportation-wise. It was full of canals, so people had to travel around by boat and other water transport. Poh Teck Tung Foundation collected bodies by using rowboats and bullock cars. Later on, in the era of King RAMA VI, transportation was developed. Poh Teck Tung Foundation changed from using a bullock car to using a van and pickup truck. They also used motorboats instead of rowboats. In addition, when radio communication took place, the communication between foundation and police was much easier, which helped them do their job faster.
2. Cremation – Aside from collecting bodies, Poh Teck Tung Foundation also takes care of the death procedure and cremation, such as bringing unclaimed bodies from forensic laboratory to bury at Poh Teck Tung Graveyard, and taking care of death certificates for unclaimed corpses and cremating them according to their religion and beliefs.
3. Graveyard – Poh Teck Tung Foundation has their own land for making the graveyard for the corpses. There are many people who join and donate for building the graveyard and buy coffins. Poh Teck Tung Foundation also has a huge funeral pyre and many professional officers who take care of cremains. Nowadays, Poh Teck Tung Foundation has 7,000 graves and 8,000 square yards area to expand the graveyard for corpses.
Poh Teck Tung’s most well known campaign: Hua Chiew Hospital
One of the most considerable campaigns carried out by Poh Teck Tung Foundation is building “Hua Chiew Hospital.” At first, the campaign was just to construct a small clinic specialized in assisting childbirth called “Hua Chiew Clinic,” which provided only assisting childbirth service in both inside and outside the clinic that aims to follow the ambition of Tai Hong. Due to the war in the year 1938, many women had escape from China and most of them were pregnant, so they had to be hospitalized at Hua Chiew Clinic, which caused the excess of babies. The Board of Directors of Poh Teck Tung Foundation were then ordered to move Hua Chiew Clinic to Bamrung Muang Road and build permanent modern buildings in order to bear more patients and be able to remediate covering more sickness. After the building was completely built, the Board of Directors of Poh Teck Tung Foundation then decided to name it as “Hua Chiew Hospital.” At present, Hua Chiew Hospital has become a “general hospital,” which provides almost every medical service in HA standards (Hospital Accreditation.)
So far, Poh Teck Tung has done many great things for Thailand. Poh Teck Tung Foundation is expanding its branches all over the country in order to get its work done more efficiently, which makes the foundation become a big charity that helps fellow people from suffering, which will continue to save people’s lives, and help society to the utmost.
By : Yannadet Tongratanakeaw