Street cleaner in Thailand returns gold worth nearly a year's wages, sweeps local hearts: 'I almost cried'

The Straits Times
Aug 16, 2023

A street cleaner in Thailand has been feted for her honesty, earning praise and a special certificate of honour from the local authorities on Wednesday, after she found and returned gold accessories worth nearly 200,000 baht (S$7,700) to their owner.

Ms Ratree Chumwong, 55, was on morning cleaning duty in Mueang Phetchabun district on Monday when she found a round box with a clear lid that appeared to contain a number of gold accessories, a Thai online news platform reported.

The part-time employee of the municipal office in the northern-central Thai province of Phetchabun said she recognised that the box was valuable as it looked like one from a local goldsmith and jeweller.

She chose not to open it, instead covering it with a plastic bin while she told a nearby restaurant’s operator about her discovery. Together, they informed the police, who managed to contact the owner of the gold to reunite him with his belongings.

“The owner must have been sorry... (I know) because my gold necklace has been lost before,” Ms Ratree said, as cited by online platform Phu Phithak, which is Thai for “guardian”.

“I’m so happy to do a good deed. I almost cried,” she added.

Mr Ittiphon, a freelance photographer whom the gold belonged to, claimed his valuables at the Mueang Phetchabun police station on Monday.

He explained that he was at a party on Sunday and had put the gold accessories, which included a necklace, a bracelet and a gold-framed amulet worth nearly 200,000 baht, in the round box for safety.

According to the Economic Research Institute, a salary tracking platform, the average salary for a cleaner in Thailand is around 232,000 baht a year.

Mr Ittiphon, 31, said he did not realise he had dropped the box and was “overwhelmed” with gratitude to Ms Ratree.

Her act of honesty was recognised by Phetchabun Mayor Seksan Niyompeng, who handed her a certificate of recognition on Wednesday morning.

The mayor also forked out a cash reward from his own pocket and said the municipal office is considering converting Ms Ratree into a permanent employee.

Local residents expressed their admiration for Ms Ratree’s actions online, with many leaving comments of appreciation on social media posts with videos from local news channels reporting the incident.

Referring to Thailand’s political impasse where the establishment- and junta-appointed Senate has twice blocked the prime ministerial bid of election winner Pita Limjaroenrat, one netizen commented: “If the seniors in the current era were like this, I would have a prime minister already.”

The Straits Times

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