Apichat Sudsaneh was born on Dec. 2, 1972, in Phrae, Thailand, to Sangwan and Yut Sudsaneh, the middle child of their three sons. When he was 13, he stopped going to school in order to begin working to help support his family. By then his father had died, and Paitoon, his older brother, wasn’t making much money in his chosen career as a farmer, so Apichat worked as a mechanic’s assistant to help Kriengsak, his younger brother, go to school.
When Apichat was 18, he began training to be a welder. Five years later, he was accepting placements all over the world. He would go on to work in Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Africa, where he spent 47 months prior to arriving in Canada on a contract with a group of other Thai welders. The men had impressed Carl Bikharie, production manager at Edmonton’s Thermo Design Engineering Ltd., when he was doing a recruitment drive for welders in Thailand in July 2007. Carl remembers giving them a test that takes an average Canadian welder between 2½ and three hours to complete. All the Thai workers did it in under an hour and were graded “A.” “These guys were so good that our local guys would step up and have to pick up the pace,” says Carl.
Where Apichat also shone was in speaking English. When he was selected for a work permit in Canada, he was told he’d have to take an English language course. “He actually objected to taking the training because he had the confidence that he could pass the exam without it,” says Carl, “And that’s what he did.”
Apichat began working in Edmonton on Sept. 10, 2008. “His safety boots were always well polished, I can clearly see it,” says Carl. “On a shop floor that’s not very common—that just tells you what type of person he was.” As well as being a model employee, Apichat played a critical role in the workplace, serving as an interpreter and a translator between the English and Thai workers.
Friendly and helpful, Apichat quickly made friends in the Edmonton Thai community. On weekends, he would cook and sing karaoke with his friends. “Any type of work we do with the Thai community, I can always count on him,” says Melissa Davis, a close friend and vice-president of the Alberta Thai Association. Apichat, a devout man, encouraged Melissa to make time to attend services at the Thai Buddhist temple. And every Saturday night, he would cook food to bring to the monks at the temple on Sunday mornings.
Despite his active role in the Thai community, Apichat hadn’t returned to Thailand since accepting his placement in Edmonton. He was too busy working so he could send money to support his extended family, which included his eight-year-old niece Ankana and six-year-old nephew Wattawut; Apichat had taken the children under his wing when his brother could no longer afford to care for them.
Supporting more than 10 people in Thailand, Apichat had never found the time to marry—he had never been home in Thailand long enough to meet someone. “He wanted to get married, he was planning to get married,” says Melissa. Apichat, she adds, was also hoping to settle in Canada for good. He liked Edmonton and hoped to begin the process of applying to become a permanent resident. (Kriengsak says Apichat had promised to bring him to Canada to see the snow.) However, his latest contract had ended on Friday, June 4, and Apichat was keeping his eye out for a decently priced ticket to Thailand. He planned to pass the time in Phrae while he waited to hear if he had been approved for another Canadian placement. It would be the first time he had seen his family since he began working in Edmonton.
On the evening of Saturday, June 5, Apichat was celebrating the end of his contract with friends at a local bar. Melissa remembers Apichat telling her that for some reason he felt that he wouldn’t be able to return to Canada, and he invited her to visit him and his family in his hometown. “I told him not to worry, because I needed his help for the Thai heritage festival in August,” says Melissa. Shortly after, at around 1 a.m. Sunday morning, Apichat left the bar with friends. When the group was mugged, Apichat stepped in to protect them and was fatally stabbed. Edmonton police have arrested two men and are looking for five more people in connection with the death. Apichat Sudsaneh was 37.