Thailand’s 108-year-old boatman ‘Grandpa Yen’ dies

October 12th, 2008 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangkok, Oct 12 (DPA) “Grandpa Yen”, a 108-year-old Thai-Muslim who lived alone in a small boat on the Phetchaburi river for years, died Sunday from natural causes.Yen Kaewmanee was found unconscious in his river boat by neighbours Sunday morning and rushed to Prachao Khlao Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 10.40 am, The Nation online news reported.

To save on rent, Yen had been living in small houseboats in the Phetchaburi River since his wife died when he was in his mid-90s.

Fondly known as “Grandpa Yen”, the 108-year-old shot to fame in 2004 when his unique and austere lifestyle was captured in a television documentary.

After the documentary was aired on Thai TV, Yen was flooded with services and gifts including a new fibreglass houseboat donated by Thai Queen Sirikit.

The fame was not without its down side. Yen recently had to open a bank account for the first time in his life after thieves took 70,000 baht ($2,060) in cash from his small boat.

Prior to the documentary, Yen lived in a wooden houseboat and fished for a living. His austere lifestyle highlighted for some benefits of self-sufficiency and for others the lack of public services for the elderly in Thailand.

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