It is not uncommon for people with disabilities to sell lottery tickets in Thailand, but it is slightly unusual when the vendor has no legs, only one arm, only three fingers on his one good hand, and drives a motorcycle. But then again, Boonsong Kumdee is not an ordinary individual by any means.
Born in Suphanburi, and aged 49, Boonsong's life has been beset by tragedy. Born without his legs, he then proceeded to lose his right arm in a traffic accident a number of years ago. To make matters worse his only son, At, was electrocuted in 1984. Boonsong's wife, Doy, aged 47, runs a noodle shop and this helps the couple make ends meet. They have a daughter, Kung, aged 22, who helps her mother tend to their eatery.
Every morning Boonsong leaves his home in Nonthaburi, near the Rama VII Bridge, to drive his motorbike to Klong Toey where he sells lottery tickets near the Haroothai Convent School. Boonsong started selling lottery tickets four years ago, but he is certainly not getting rich doing it. He can sell anywhere between Bt300-800 per day in tickets (each ticket is Bt45), but on the 1st and 16th of each month he must hand over Bt7,500 to the government lottery office. Boonsong says is lucky to make Bt1,000 for each two week period, and on top of that he has to pay for his gas which is Bt30 a day.
Before becoming a lottery vendor Boonsong entertained people, in a sort of circus-freak show-cabaret troupe. He did tricks like spinning around on a rope, boxing with other "vertically challenged" people, sitting on a bottle etc. While it did net him some money it did nothing for his dignity.
Boonsong has customized his motorcycle so that the stub of his right arm can hit the metal extension of the break he has rigged up to the right side of his machine. The accelerator is on the left grip (he switched it over from the right side where it was too difficult to access). The gearshift is on left side as well, and he can access it easily with his one good arm.
For a person who has endured so much pain, suffering and indignation Boonsong hopes and aspirations aren't really that high. Although he would like to visit another country one day, he says that all he really wants right now is to be able to buy some more lottery tickets so that he can earn some more money for his family to help pay their bills.
He leases the land that his family lives on for Bt1,700 a month, and he has to dish out Bt2,000 a month in order to meet his motorcycle payments, so the family does not have a lot of play money.
Khun Boonsong is an enigma in that he has every reason to be unhappy and miserable, but he refuses to be. He is always smiling, always keeping busy (he repairs his own bike), and he never seems to feel sorry for himself. His enthusiasm and persistence are infectious, and anyone who spends any length of time with Boonsong Kumdee is bound to come away thinking their own problems are not as bad as they thought they were.