Family's Singapore dreams in tatters after Vietnam man killed here
Vietnamese dishwasher killed here supported two sons, seven siblings and elderly mother back home
He came here from Vietnam with a dream: to give his family back home a better life.
With his $1,000 a month salary as a dishwasher, Mr Phan Duc Thang, 32, would remit $700 to his wife for the upkeep of his family, which included two young sons, seven siblings and an elderly mother.
But that dream ended on May 21 when Mr Phan died of head injuries following an altercation with another man.
His death has devastated his family.
Not only are they in grief and shock, they have also lost their main breadwinner and are saddled with what is, by their standards, a mountain of debt.
Soon after flying in from Vietnam last Friday evening, his wife, Madam Bui Thi Thu Ha, 32, told The New Paper in Mandarin: "Our whole family was depending on him. He was everything to us."
The frail-looking Madam Bui, who works in a glove factory back home, added: "What are we going to do now? We don't know how to even begin to move on."
Mr Phan's brothers arrived last week to collect Mr Phan's body and do the funeral rites, which undertaker Roland Tay helped to arrange for free.
Speaking between occasional pauses to compose herself, Madam Bui said her husband, the seventh of eight siblings, was from a village in Nghe An province in northern Vietnam.
The couple married 14 years ago and have two sons, aged 13, and 10 months.
Making ends meet every month was tough, she said, especially when jobs in the countryside earned them just over S$100 a month.
So they looked for better prospects overseas.
About five years ago, the couple went to Taiwan to work as dishwashers. That was where they learnt Mandarin.
"But the money we earned there was not enough. So we did illegal jobs on the side," she said.
One of the jobs was looking after elderly patients at a hospital.
Their Taiwan stint ended after three years, in 2014, when the authorities caught them moonlighting at the hospital.
They were immediately repatriated to Vietnam, where Mr Phan resumed doing odd jobs.
Madam Bui found a job at a glove factory, earning about US$100 (S$140) a month.
Last year, Mr Phan decided to come to Singapore to work.
To get here, he borrowed about US$8,000 to pay the agent, travel and administrative fees, said Madam Bui.
She said: "I would have travelled here with him, but we have two sons. The younger one is just 10 months old, too young to travel.
"I didn't want my husband to come here alone, but his mind was made up.
"He was always very responsible towards the family. Too responsible. He did not want me to help shoulder his burden."
After arriving here in December last year, Mr Phan worked as a dishwasher at a coffee shop in Marsiling.
He sent back most of his salary, keeping only about $300 for his personal expenses, she said.
Said Madam Bui: "He would also call home every day and tell me how he was. I would tell him to save on the phone bills, but he wouldn't listen."
The last time she heard her husband's voice was on the day of the incident.
"He called home to ask if I had finished work and how were the children. And then no word from him for the next three days," she said.
She grew worried and tried contacting some of his friends through phone calls and Facebook.
But it was only three days later, on Tuesday last week, that she heard about her husband's death.
TNP understands that Mr Phan suffered serious head injuries, including bleeding in his brain. He died in hospital.
"All I remember was crying until I passed out," said Madam Bui on her reaction to the horrible news.
Her mother-in-law, 75, had the same reaction.
Madam Bui said: "I told my older son what happened. He's been crying non-stop and asking for his father."
Mr Tay, founder of Direct Funeral Services, paid for the Phans' plane tickets and accommodation in Singapore.
Mr Tay said: "I was very sad when I heard what happened. When his wife told me they didn't have enough money to fly over, I felt I had to help them.
"I just did my best to help them through this difficult period."
Madam Bui said the family is at a loss over what to do.
As tears welled up in her eyes, she said: "We just want to bring my husband home.
"Of course, we are worried. We still have US$6,000 of my husband's bank loan to pay off. We don't know what is going to happen next."
The man involved in the incident was charged in court last Monday with voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
He called home to ask if I had finished work and how were the children. And then no word from him for the next three days.
- Madam Bui, who found out about her husband's death three days after it happened
I didn't want my husband to come here alone but his mind was made up. He was always very responsible towards the family. Too responsible. He did not want me to help shoulder his burden.
- Madam Bui Thi Thu Ha, who married Mr Phan Duc Thang14 years ago
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She joined the National University Hospital in 2013.
But the 28-year-old never got to fulfil her potential.
She was strangled some time between 12.54pm on March 21 and 8.40pm the next day and her body was left in a rental flat in Block 70, Circuit Road, for a few days.
Malaysian Boh Soon Ho, 47, who is believed to have been Ms Zhang's boyfriend, was charged with her murder in April.
Tow-truck driver Li Hongzhou, 40, came to Singapore from Shandong, China, in 2013 due to a lack of jobs back home.
On Jan 10, at about 5.50am, he was attending to an accident involving two cars on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) when a third car slammed into him, killing him.
Mr Li, who was married with a 12-year-old son, died on the spot.
Construction worker Li Xian Long, 45, came here to work so that he could put this three children through school.
But just a month after his elder son graduated from university, Mr Li was killed in a horrific accident on June 22.
The lorry he was travelling in mounted a kerb, hit a guard rail and landed on its side.
The accident, which killed two other workers, happened on the PIE near the Thomson Road exit.
In November 2011, the lorry driver was jailed for three months and banned from driving for 10 years.