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American Expat a ‘Guardian Angel’ Over Infant He Found Under Chiang Mai Tree

Emoon, her mother, brothers and baby Nong Nong at their home outside Chiang Mai.
Emoon, her mother, brothers and baby Nong Nong at their home outside Chiang Mai.

An American expat has become the guardian angel for an infant he found under a tree in Chiang Mai, helping to reunite the baby girl with her mother, whose story may now end up on the silver screen.

Eric Ransdell was walking home on May 13 when he saw the baby’s arm sticking out from under a blanket. The St. Joseph, Missouri-native feared the child was dead, but wasn’t, so he called Thai friends and police for help.

A female friend immediately offered to adopt the child, but Ransdell’s story and Instagram photos ended up in Thai-language newspaper and were spotted by the child’s Burmese birth mother, who authorities assumed had abandoned the child. The reality was something very different.

Emoon, a migrant worker from Shan State, had gone into labor while outside and gave birth to the child by herself. But she lost a great deal of blood and passed out. When she awoke, Emoon told police she thought the child wasn’t breathing. She wandered the streets of Chiang Mai in a daze, carrying her “dead” baby, hoping to find a temple that would cremate her.

How the child, umbilical cord still attached, ended up under that tree in a blanket no one knows. But Emoon saw the news and recognized her scarf wrapped around the baby. She stormed to the police station and – after some vigorous questioning – mother and child were reunited.

Ransdell kept tabs on Emoon while she was hospitalized and, when she was discharged, drove her and “Nong Nong” home where Emoon, 21, lived with her mother and two younger brothers. What he found shocked him, Ransdell recalled.

The family lived inside a garbage-recycling center, in a small hut with no running water, about 30 kilometers south of Chiang Mai. It was then, Ransdell said, he realized he needed to do something for this little girl and her family.

Emoon had worked in the Worarot fabric market in Chiang Mai, but lost her job when it closed during Thailand’s coronavirus lockdown. The baby’s father also had worked there, but had gone back to Myanmar to renew his passport and got locked out when Thailand’s borders closed.

On June 11, Ransdell set up a page on GoGetFunding.com to raise money for formula and baby supplies. It has not done well, collecting only US$330 since.

That may change, however, if Ransdell’s friend in New York, a Broadway actress, has her way. When told of the mother who gave birth alone, wandered with a “dead” child until it was left by a tree, and then was reunited, she instantly wanted to adapt it into a Hollywood move.

Ransdell said the actress thought such an uplifting story is what the world needs amid the pandemic.

“Everybody’s living through this horrible Covid crisis, and they’re stuck at home,” Ransdell told his hometown St. Joseph newspaper in a recent interview. “And then suddenly here’s this kind of strange, but kind of wonderful, bit of good news out of nowhere. This baby gets found and then she gets reunited with her mother. It’s a really nice story.”