This is the story told by one farmer living in Amphur Paktor, Ratchaburi Province. Saweay Termtor was in his early 40’s, and he supported his wife and two children by growing 15 rai of rice.
“My rice crop failed because of insufficient rain, so I went looking for work in the South. I was hired to spray herbicides in the rubber plantations. From dawn to dusk I sprayed a mixture of paraquat and glyphosate. The employer didn’t provide me with any protective clothing, and my body was regularly soaked with the pesticide.”
“Within three months, I had all these blisters on my skin, and I was itching terribly. I also had a bad cough. The employer gave me a few medicines, like cough syrup, but the problems didn’t go away. I had to keep working. After another three months I was so sick that I decided to come home. I didn’t earn much money, so our children have gone to stay with relatives.”
“I have been to the hospital but the doctors just said that I have a common skin disease. They also said that smoking might have damaged my lungs, but I have never smoked in my life. They gave me some medicine, but they also complained that I was being a nuisance. So I stopped going.”
“Now look at me: I am going blind, my hair is falling out, and my skin itches so much that it is painful to wear clothes. My wife has to spend all her time taking care of me… feeding me, helping me go to the toilet”
This interview was taken by an official of the Department of Agricultural Extension who easily recognised the symptoms of pesticide poisoning. But it was too late. Three months later, Khun Saweay was dead.