For years, he worked as a record keeper and statistician at his local district office, where marriages and births are registered and building permissions are applied for. Now retired civil servant Suchat-E-la, 65, is helping Yawi-speaking patients to obtain the best possible treatment at a government hospital in Narathiwat.
His official title is "guest relations officer," but most people know him as Ayor ("father"). His ever-present smile and benevolent personality have made him popular among locals.
Just as important is the assistance he offers. While doctors at Narathiwat's Radchanakarin Hospital mostly speak Thai, many patients know only Yawi, a dialect of Malay spoken in the Deep South. The language barrier can add further stress to worries of having to receive medical treatment.
"I'm happy to help them to get them into the accommodations they need, and then to contact each ward and administrative section to ensure that their treatment is as efficient as possible and that they get to see the doctor as soon as possible," Suchat told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"I just want to do good things to help my fellow citizens; I don’t want or expect pay for this work, which is my sacrifice. I believe in Allah, who sees all," he said.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed by the hospital administration, however.
"I got the greatest news from the hospital director, that he has given his approval to help me attend the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia free-of-charge at the end of this year," Suchat said. "I believe that is the best possible reward, the will of Allah. The hospital will take responsibility for all expenses related to the trip."
"This is the ultimate dream come true for all Muslims, to make this once-in-a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca," he said.
Narathiwat Radchanakarin Hospital Director Wirut Pornpattanakul confirmed to Khabar that the institution has agreed to support Suchat's pilgrimage to Mecca as part of a project organised and sponsored by the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC).
He acknowledged that the language barrier is a major issue.
"More than 50% of our patients are Thai Muslims who don't understand the Thai language," Wirut said. "This problem affects our ability to render the best service, and the patients are often afraid to try and ask the staff questions that they otherwise would."
"Suchat can speak the local Yawi dialect in friendly way. Together with his ever-present smile, this relaxes both patients and staff, who really come to adore him. His dedication and sacrifice is a real inspiration to both the local community and our staff, who are constantly reminded by his presence of our commitment to give the best possible service," Wirut said.
"He also works with the families of the patients to keep them informed step-by-step of the treatment and therapies they require. This creates a sense of trust that has really increased the hospital’s reputation for good service."
One of the many patients who is grateful for Suchat's help is 67-year-old Muayae Damalor.
"I cannot read or understand Thai," she said. "When I came to the hospital the first time, I tried to follow the steps shown in the [Thai language] document, but it was no use. I just didn't understand. But after I met Ayor, everything fell into place. He helped me and I was able to meet a doctor in short order."
"If I had tried to do everything myself, it would have taken half a day. I think Ayor offers a very useful service that helps both the hospital staff and people like myself who cannot read or write Thai," she said.