In a slum in the outskirts of the Thai city of Chiang Mai, where trash and abandoned cars litter the streets, an 81-year-old Japanese man died of cancer in February.

"I want to go back to Japan. I miss Japan," the man had said on his deathbed at home.

His siblings refused to take his remains, prompting his Thai girlfriend, who had been living with him, to scatter them in a river nearby.