CHAI NAT — As buffaloes Kwan Kao and Toong-nguen were loaded onto a truck Sunday to be sold, Tongkum and the other kwai surrounded the vehicle, mooing in mourning.
Surat Phaeoket, the farmer who had been caring for five – now three – buffaloes and recently became an online sensation for his warm selfies with the animals, said he had to run after Tongkum and hold him back with tears in his eyes. He’s now asking the internet for help to purchase the photogenic kwai.
“After the truck left, they were still looking around for their friends for a while,” the Chai Nat farmer said. “They all want to stay here. But I’m not the owner, I’m just the caretaker. I have a special bond with Tongkum so I want to buy him, but they are all so expensive. That image of all the buffaloes all sad and one being shipped away, I don’t want it to happen to Tongkum.”
The handsome 4-year-old buck, whose name literally means “gold,” costs 100,000 baht. And since Sunday, he’s already received more than 62,000 baht in donations.
Surat and Tongkum recently went viral for their buddy-buddy selfie pictures, which warmed the hearts of internetters. But the animal separation anxiety known by farmers who borrow from the state Buffalo Bank soon set in.
“I decided to quickly update the amount of money I’m getting because I want to be transparent,” the 34-year-old farmer said. “If you love kwai or trust in me, my determination and honesty to create smiles and happiness to help Tongkum, please help me so later generations can see this way of life.”
A Khaosod video of Surat taking care of the other buffaloes after Kwan Kao and Toong-ngeun are sold off.
Surat said he will purchase Tongkum with the money and officially register him at the local Livestock Development Department “so he will get a Citizen ID, but for buffaloes”. He pledged to donors that he would build a comfortable stable for the animal, including a mosquito net.
“Then he will be able to sleep peacefully and not have to wake up in the middle of the night,” Surat said.
Followers will also get to follow the adventures of Tongkum on a new Facebook page in the making, getting to see Tongkum’s daily activities, his calves with his pregnant mate Kao Hom, his friendship with his buddy Permpoon and Surat’s farming activities.
Surat, 34, is a married father of two daughters, 12, 4, and a Chai Nat farmer who says he has no other way of buying Tongkum on his income of about 6,000 to 7,000 baht a month.
“My income isn’t regular. I also have to help my wife sell clothes. She gives me 100 baht of pocket money to use per day. We have to take care of our family and I do odd jobs to make ends meet as well,” Surat said.
Tongkum was still visibly sad about two of his friends leaving, since he said all five buffaloes had played together like family, taking walks and swimming in ponds.
“Now that there’s three left, it feels kind of empty,” Surat said. “One day, if I don’t buy Tongkum, he will be sold off too,” Surat said. He added that he was unaware what would happen to Kwan Kao and Toong-ngeun, but that they were probably being bred on a farm.
“With me, Tongkum is clearly happy and having fun. That’s why I asked the owner to wait until I could come up with the money,” Surat said.
“Thanks to everyone who helped donate. I’m so overwhelmed. So many people put their trust in me; I’m so touched. I promise I won’t let anyone down. Soon, Tongkum will live with me forever and we can share our happiness to others,” the farmer said.
Donors can transfer money to Surat Phaeoket at his Krungthai bank account under his name at account number 107-0-03524-6.