Fund Raiser for the Family of Wanphen Pienjai

I recently wrote about Ron Fanelli, The MadYank, and how he has admitted to stabbing and murdering a local Thai woman, Wanphen Pienjai, here in Thailand [view his confession]. The thing that really disturbed me about this whole incident was how Wanphen’s family was being impacted. In Thailand there is no real social safety-net. There is no real pension system. There is no unemployment insurance. There is no disability insurance. Nothing.

Wanphen was the breadwinner for her family. She supported her partially disabled mother and her two young children. By killing Wanphen, Ron Fenelli didn’t just destroy one life but the lives of Wanphen’s mother and her two children.

Being a poker player the story struck a nerve with me. I talked with my partner in Thailand Friends and said “We need to do something.” He agreed. So we’ve been working on putting together a charity event to try and raise money which we’ll distribute to the family.

I contacted a local journalist that had spoken with the family and told him our intentions and he forwarded on contact details for Saard, Wanphen’s mother. Since the family is from the same upcountry town as my girlfriend, Ked, I asked her if she could go visit Saard when she went to visit her own grandmother for Mother’s Day (which, in Thailand, is celebrated on Aug 12, the Queen’s birthday).

Ked was finally able to reach Saard and travelled out to a remote part of town where the family lived. Their home is quite modest but that is not unusual for the area.

Inside the home they sleep on mats on the floor. There’s no air conditioning so close to the floor is often the coolest spot.

Ked said that she found Saard to be a very sincere woman who seems to be trying to the best that she can with what she has. She told Ked that with Wanphen being an only child (and the father having left her when she was still pregnant with Wanphen) she was all that she had in this world. If it wasn’t for Farm and Iang (Wanphen’s two children), Wanphen’s death would have probably killed her. She said she felt blessed that she had left her with something.

Like many young women burdened with taking care of their parents and their own children Wanphen was struggling to make ends meet. She had heard that she could make good money working in Pattaya so she went down there. She came home a few months later because she didn’t like it there. She had heard that Phuket was much better so she took a chance and went down to Phuket to see if she could find some work. A few months later she was back home again. She didn’t like the work in Phuket either but she had mouths to feed so after exhausting all her options she decided to give Phuket another chance.

Unfortunately, that would be the last her family ever saw of her.

I had asked Ked to ask about what Saard had to say about Ron Fanelli. The only thing she could say was “Why?” She couldn’t imagine what would drive someone to murder her daughter and then throw her away like garbage.

We’ve arranged to do an event on Oct 9th. Our goal is to raise 100,000 baht. That’s a little over $3,200 USD. Not a lot but it’s a lot here. And it’s a sizable amount to someone living out in the rural areas of Thailand.

We’ve decided that what we’ll do is distribute it out in monthly payments so it’s not like a big lottery check coming in. Too many sad tales of money disappearing as fast as it was won. We figure this is a much more responsible way since this is intended more as a helping hand rather than a straight handout.

Everything will be done transparently on the Thailand Friends website. We’ve started a message board thread that is sticky and locked so only updated about what’s going on can be posted. All cash in and out will be recorded there so everyone can see where the money is going. And there’s no management overhead or anything. Anytime we head up to visit it is on our dime so 100% of what we raise goes directly to the family.

Many people in the poker community have asked how they might help and this is one way. If you would like to make a contribution to Wanphen’s family you can either PayPal it to me (ping me for my info) or transfer it to me on Stars or Tilt (Stars: billrini / Tilt: billytwoguns).

And if you can help spread the word on message boards and such it is very much appreciated. The amount we’re trying to raise is rather modest so even $10 or so would really, really help.

Anyway, thanks in advance to everyone who contributes and hopefully, together, we can make a difference for this family.

Bill Rini
Bill Rini is currently the Head of Online Poker for WSOP. He has been working in the online poker industry since 2004 and has held management roles at Full Tilt Poker and PartyPoker.

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