Dark Days

Posted on 17 February 2012 by


On Feb 3, 2012 Austrian tourist Josef Osterreich died in Ward 5 at Koh Kong Hospital, Cambodia.  According to medical officials at Koh Kong Hospital he checked only four days earlier with ill health, loss of control over his bowels, extreme diabetes and little will to live.  According to the resident Doctor, Osterreich’s immune system was entirely failing having HIV like symptoms, a test he refused to have in his final days.

Andy Scheidegger, his only present friend, explained in depth Osterreich having been paranoid ever since becoming sick and finding a red bottle of poison in his old home in Thailand. Living in Asia for twenty years he had allegedly purchased a young boy eight years ago to “take care” of his needs.  Medical needs? I think probably more than that.  At thirteen the boy brought a girl to the house, interested in having a girlfriend, to which Osterreich reacted violently denying the boy payment if he brought any girls back.   “The family was more of a problem” admits Scheidegger, “he should have never told them about the money that was his first mistake.”  This is apparently very common for foreign tourists to buy young boys and girls for all their needs in return they offer them money, housing and support.  In return, apparently the families poison them for payment sooner.  Osterreich allegedly became paranoid so he sold his home in Thailand, let the young boy go and moved to Cambodia where he struggled to live out his final days.  He had been kicked out of every hotel in Koh Kong having asked several tenants for a gun to end his misery.  Scheidegger claims he offered to buy him a new boy in Cambodia for only $300-$400 “but he was a cheap charlie” he says and paranoid after what happened in Thailand.   I parted from Scheidegger as he left with Cambodian officials and an ambulance to finalize Osterreich’s departure from this world.

In an hour or so I spot his jeep driving back into the clinic, I run over to inquire, will there be a burial?  Andy squints looking straight ahead “he is over at the temple now if you care to go, there is not much else to see maybe just some ashes.”  Then he looks at me with piercing crystal blue eyes and says “or something to smell.”  These pictures are not for the light hearted.  They are pictures of a dark journey to one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever set foot.  Sabun, my tuk tuk driver took me to the temple (wat community) where I was joined by wat residents, four monks and a beautiful young girl, to witness Osterreich’s body burn in the crematorium; his hopeless soul leaving his body to be reincarnated as something maybe less than a rooster or a pig.

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