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ROI-ET: As the old proverb goes, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. As a young soldier in Isarn recently found out, the same holds true for fish in ponds.

Late last month, Royal Thai Army Private Benchaphon Dangwibul told a reporter in a rather hoarse voice that on November 24 he was on a 10-day furlough from his base in Nakhon Pathom to help his family bring in the rice harvest.

That afternoon he felt like having fish for dinner, so he called to his parents that he was off to a nearby pond to go and catch some – by hand.

After scrabbling about the bottom of the pond for a while, he soon managed to grab a pla mor, or climbing perch. The fish was about four inches long and one inch thick, he said.

He held it tightly in his left hand while he continued to hunt for more fish with his right. He soon found a pla chon, or snakehead fish, but the fish put up a good fight and he couldn’t hold it with just one hand.

To free up both hands, he quickly put the perch in his mouth, holding its head firmly between his teeth, while he got to grips with the feisty snakehead.

The perch, however, did not appreciate being clamped in Pte Benchaphon’s jaw and started to struggle violently. Eventually it slipped through his teeth and began to slide straight down his throat, where its sharp fins dug into the flesh, wedging it firmly in place and very nearly choking him. Pte Benchaphon waved frantically to his parents, who rushed him to Roi-Et Thonburi Hospital.

Dr Somkiat Wichethaphong, who treated the poor private, said that when the patient was brought in he was writhing with pain. Fortunately, he could still see the fish’s tail sticking out, so it hadn’t gone in too far. Dr Somkiat said that he used forceps to hold Pte Benchaphon’s throat open while he cut up the perch, taking it out bit-by-bit. It took him and his team of nurses more than an hour to get all of the fish out.

Pte Benchaphon was very lucky to have survived, the doctor said. If he hadn’t gotten to hospital so quickly he could have died. The patient is now recovering well and has been given permission to go home, Dr Somkiat said.

Thongin Dangwibul, Pte Benchaphon’s father, said that he had heard many stories of people dying after getting fish stuck in their throats, but had never thought it could happen to anyone in his family.

It was very lucky that he saw what had happened straight away and that he lived close to a hospital, otherwise his son may have died, he added.

The incident should serve as a lesson to people not to use their mouths to hold fish as they may not be as lucky as his son, Mr Thogin said.