Picherd Wiriyanupappong

Picherd Wiriyanupappong

Picherd Wiriyanupappong was known among locals for his delicious pa tong ko which he sold in the centre of Trang city in the peaceful southern province.

IN THE FAMILY: Picherd Wiriyanupappong, third right, with his close-knit family. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED

Every evening, people would crowd the Chinese fried bread stick stall of the 51-year-old vendor, who left the navy as a petty officer first class more than two decades ago to stay with his wife in his home town.

In the afternoon, Picherd would come to prepare his bread stick and pandan custard with his wife Wanthanee. At 3pm, food vendors and other stalls spring to life after the road is closed to traffic and transforms into a walking street.

The vibrant nightlife draws both tourists and locals to the walking street, located in the heart of Trang, close to the landmark clock tower, the railway and police stations and the provincial hospital.

On the afternoon of Aug 11, Picherd had finished the food preparation for his pa tong ko stall before 3pm. The stall was positioned in front of a new sala rest area opened only a few days earlier. Dough was placed on the table, ready for deep frying.

Checking the time on the clock tower, Picherd thought he still had a few minutes before the street opened. He sat inside the pavilion and played on his smartphone while his wife folded paper bags close to their stall.

But as the clock tower was about to strike 3pm, a loud noise boomed from inside the sala. Picherd, who was then sitting on the footpath in front of the sala, pushed his wife out of harm's way. The explosion had shattered the sala, hit Picherd's back and injured seven others, including his wife.

As the smoke settled, people first thought the blast had come from a broken circuit board. Quiet Trang had never had never experienced violence of this magnitude before.

A few minutes later, an ambulance arrived. Rescue officers rushed to Ms Wanthanee, who asked them to look after her husband first. Picherd was unconscious, the skin on his back had been ripped off by the blast and the left side of his chest was badly injured. He was lying face down covered in blood.

Picherd died in hospital about 10 minutes later. Ms Wanthanee underwent emergency surgery and survived, along with the other six victims.

In the minutes after the attack, Preechachan Wiriyanupappong, 53, received a phone call in Bangkok telling him his brother and sister-in-law were badly injured in an explosion. Preechachan is the sports editor of The Nation newspaper. He had not returned to Trang to join the family in Mother's Day celebrations as he had to follow the Rio Olympics for his newspaper.

Preechachan and his brother were very close.

"This family is very happy. We eat together and play together. We have a Line chat room for our family members," he said.

"My brother always said life was too short. He said if we feel tired, we stop. We just stop and have fun. He did not have much money, but he was a happy man."

After hearing the bad news, Preechachan drove from Bangkok to Trang. Along the way, he listened to the news, trying to find out what happened. "No one thought it was part of the larger attacks in several provinces. The Trang governor even thought that the explosion was a result of a local business conflict at the market."

Preechachan said he learned later that his brother was hit by the improvised explosive device hidden inside the sala.

Preechachan arrived in Trang on the afternoon of Aug 12.

"The whole town was silent," he said. He went straight to the temple to arrange for his brother's funeral. "I cried hard. My brother was a good man. He's been my buddy all my life."

After finishing the funeral arrangements, he left the temple around 10.30pm.

"Trang was like a ghost town. Not a single person was walking on the street. Every shop was closed. Only two to three cars were driving." There were rumours that another bomb could have followed.

The walking street had become a crime scene and the area was sealed off. "I looked inside, it was dark and empty. The sala was covered by a cloth. I imagined the image of my brother drowned in a pool of blood."

In the mornings after, people started to gather at the small cafe as usual. They were speculating about the motive of the blast. People came to express sympathy for Picherd's family.

His funeral was at a temple located in front of the house of former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, who is also a native of Trang.

Mr Chuan attended the funeral.

"But we did not discuss the motive of the blast. He told my brother's children to study hard to help their mother," said Preechachan. Their eldest son is a second-year Ramkhamhaeng University student. Their daughter is in a middle school in Trang.

Ms Wanthanee remains in hospital. Her husband's cremation ritual was held on Thursday. But Picherd's body was not in the coffin.

His body will be cremated later. Ms Wanthanee wants to attend her husband's cremation so it has been postponed until after she leaves hospital.

MAN IN THE STREET: Picherd Wiriyanupappong, a pa tong ko vendor who succumbed to injuries from last week's explosion in Trang, left. The clock tower on the popular walking street, right. SUPPLIED

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