Saturday, 6 August 2005

the sad face of Laos

Yesterday, I saw someone die. A teenage boy, most probably drunk, hit by a car whilst riding a motorbike. I was on the back of Shane's bike and we were heading back to town from Tim's party, (coincidently a really fun evening) when we turned a corner to see a crowd gathered in the middle of the road. The young man lying on his back, his helmet and bits of his bike strewn across the road, lay dead. Someone had respectfully placed a piece of cloth across his face. One foot no longer resembled a foot. This was the closest encounter i've ever had with a dead person and it was horrific, despite there being no obvious signs of blood. It has traumatised me quite badly.

500 yards down the road there was another accident involving two motorbikes this time. The victims had been taken to hospital.

It happens every single night, here in Vientiane. Drunken teenagers riding full pelt on motorbikes, either without helmets or, as in the case of the young man yesterday, a helmet with the straps undone. What's worse is that there is no ambulance service and minimal healthcare if you make it to the hospital. In cases where the victims survive, friends usually throw them in the back of a tuk tuk (no thought for spinal injuries e.t.c) then negotiate with the tuk tuk driver for a reasonable price to get their friend to hospital.

The only other time i've seen someone dead was after a ayoung girl jumped from a multi-storey carpark. In that instance she had been completely surrounded by people and I was spared the graphic nature of her untimely death. Yesterday's situation was different, and somehow more brutal, in the absence of paramedics and ambulance sirens. There was just silence as people tried to work out what to do next.

It also got me thinking, once more, about the military and the psychological trauma military personnel must go through when they face hundreds or thousands of deaths in warfare. It also got me thinking about the driver of the car and what he must be feeling to have killed, even if accidentally, a young life. I wondered what it must take to be able to kill someone deliberately; what it must feel like to pull a trigger or press a button, instantaneously ending the life of a fellow human being. Finally, I wondered if my brother, in his rush to apply for the RAF, had actually ever experienced seeing death in the flesh or even thought how well equiped he will be to deal with it when the situation inevitably arrives. I wonder how he will cope in warfare.

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