A man whose disfigurement has made him a recluse his whole life has finally being tempted out of hiding in Thailand to pay respects to the country’s king, who died recently.
Shiti Charoenrattanaprapa, 60, who has suffered from neurofibromatosis since the age of 15, has been shunned by all around him, including most of his own family.
The disease has caused huge bubble-like tumours to form all over his face and body.
Shiti Charoenrattanaprapa (pictured, centre) has survived on charity in recent years. Red Cross workers and hospital workers, some of whom are seen with him, bring him food and other groceries because he is unable to work
The bubble-like tumours on his skin are extremely unsightly but are not actually painful, nor are they cancerous or infectious
WHAT IS NEUROFIBROMATOSIS?
The name for a group of conditions that cause lumps to grow on the coverings of nerves.
There are two main types – the most common being Type 1 or NF1. This affects around one person in 2,500. There is no known cure.
NF is caused by a mutation in one of the genes. About half of the people who have NF have no family history of the condition. This is called a spontaneous gene mutation. The other half of people will have inherited NF from their mother or father.
Some sufferers are affected by neurofibromas, which usually appear during adolescence. These may first appear on the skin as a purplish mark, before a small fibrous lump appears. They can also grow along deeper-seated nerves inside the body, which can be painful if knocked.
The lumps can increase in number during a person’s lifetime. There is no treatment to stop the lumps from appearing although surgery or laser treatment can sometimes be used to remove
Mr Charoenrattanaprapa was born in Bangkok but was ostracised in the Thai capital and eventually forced to cross the country’s jungle border into Myanmar, then still called Burma.
He lived there until being arrested as an illegal immigrant and deported back to Thailand last year.
Unable to hold a job all his life because of his appearance, and with no family members to fall back on, Mr Charoenrattanaprapa was found living alone in a hut by members of the Red Cross in Thailand’s southern Yala province.
He was given food and other daily provisions from hospital volunteers, who visited him in his hut.
But Mr Charoenrattanaprapa now wants to return to Bangkok to pay his respects to Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who died last month aged 88 and was regarded as semi-divine by many of his compatriots.
After his trip to Bangkok, Mr Charoenrattanaprapa will probably return to his lonely hut in Yala province and live on with the help of the Red Cross.
The king’s son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, is due to be proclaimed monarch on December 1, despite being extremely unpopular in Thailand.
Shiti Charoenrattanaprapa has been an outcast since the age of 15, when the tumours began growing on his face and body. He ended up fleeing Thailand to live in the jungles of Burma
Shiti Charoenrattanaprapa, now 60, has lived a sad and lonely life. He collects his own firewood to cook with and lives in a hut in Yala province in southern Thailand
Nurses at a local hospital have taken him under their wing, bringing food and groceries and giving him health check-ups
Shiti Charoenrattanaprapa wants to return to Bangkok to pay homage to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died recently after almost 70 years on the throne
Shiti Charoenrattanaprapa lives a quiet life in southern Thailand. Many Thais are Buddhists who believe that his present life is a punishment for something he did in a past life and that if he lives a good life he will be rewarded with a better life next time round