Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

The news that tourist deaths in Thailand have risen 54 per cent in a year is perhaps surprising. But more surprising is the fact that the statistics were released.

With apologies to Don Wright of the Miami News - this cartoon was originally directed at Miami and south Florida after a scathing report on violence there in Time magazine

They came from the Bureau of Prevention and Assistance in Tourist Fraud an organisation I have never ever heard of,  but one I know which is certainly not recommended by the Thai police as somewhere to go when tourists are defrauded.

Pongpanu Svetarundra, Sports and Tourism Ministry secretary, told the Bangkok Post:

“In the past, we did not deal with the root causes of the tourist safety problem. From now on, we will look at the issue and address it seriously.”

I am not sure the Ministry of Tourism can do much about this as most of this issue appears to be in the sphere of the Royal Thai Police, whose time could perhaps be spent less on booking elderly foreigners for playing bridge.

According to the figures the main cause of death was road accidents (34)  Swimming and boating accidents claimed nine lives, congenital disease six, suicides four, and other causes 30.

I am also not sure how these figures are compiled; possibly the same way in which the murder rate is – significantly haphazardly when they are actually put together.

These statistics showed only 83 foreign deaths while Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported 109 deaths of Australians alone in Thailand between July 2014 and July 2015.

Tourist buses still overtake on blind bends. Rogue speedboat 'captains' still run over swimmers.  boats still sink without enough life rafts,and as for other causes we can but take a guess, but murder is certainly in there.

Actually warnings like this are nothing new in the media. Remember this in the Daily Mail. This was shortly after the Koh Tao murders.

Two other mystery deaths are still causing concern in the UK or at least the families and friends are s determined not let the issues go away.

Luke Miller and Nichola Gissing
The first of course is the drowning of Luke Miller, from Newport, Isle of Wight, in the  pool of the Sunset bar in Koh Tao.

Thai police put that one down to the fact that he drowned while intoxicated and the external injuries on his body were due to the barbed wire of the DJ booth by the pool which he must have climbed up.

Police said his body was found by a cleaner in the pool in the morning. But a witness claimed it was not there an hour and a before.

(It may or may not be significant but a friend of Montriwat Tuwichian, the brother of the 'head man' at Sairee Beach where Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered was taking photographs as Luke's holiday companions Nichola and James Gissing were trying to quiz local police.)

The second case is that of Liam Whitaker who died while in custody of police in the Khaosan Road, Bangkok. Prior to his death his colleague Paul Meredrew had been led on the usual route to the ATM machine to get cash, as at least 400,000 baht was needed in relation to drugs possession. Liam had bought off a tuk tuk driver and was arrested within minutes.

Meredrew described police and their efforts to extort money as ‘gangsters’.

Thai Police said he committed suicide – but the coroner in Cornwell refused to confirm that judgment, due of course to lack of police evidence and the odd circumstances prior to his death. The fuller story is here.

In both cases the bodies of Luke Miller and Liam Whitaker were embalmed in such a way that it was impossible to carry out full and proper post mortems in the UK.

In both the Whitaker case the toxicology part of the post mortem was incomplete, and in the Miller case the forensics report has still not been completed. In the Koh Tao case of course everything including the DNA tests were done and dusted in a day.

Liam’s mother has joined the chorus of families and relatives wishing to spread the word warning people about taking holidays in Thailand. She posted the following on the Justice for Luke, Facebook page.

“This is our dear son Liam. He too went on holiday to Thailand. He & we as a family were unaware of the dangers there. Cornwall is so far removed in lifestyle!
I didn`t want him to go to Bangkok but had NO idea about the way the Thai Police treat tourists there. He fell into a trap (which some will say was his own fault) which should never exist (tuk tuk drug scam).
It is entrapment by the corrupt Thai Police Force for bribe money. The way in which his death happened is suspicious & the way which it was dealt with appalling. Life in Thailand is so cheap. Young people are sold (very cheaply by western standards) alcohol by the bucketful & drugs are so freely available to buy (although illegal, it may not seem that way). 
The Thais want to take these young people`s money but do not then like it when they (the young people) become noisy & behave irresponsibly! It is all about the money whether it be alcohol, drugs, or hiring a moped or Jet Ski, whatever & you may pay with your life. The fact that these deaths are then routinely covered up & dealt with so badly is very very wrong. 
We miss Liam every single minute of every single day, as I know you miss Luke, & always will. I am sorry for your loss; sorry that another family will go through this heartache. 
I wish we had known what can & does happen out there & so we support wholeheartedly the campaign to raise awareness."

This will not do a lot of damage to the tourist industry that the military coup has not already done. (It certainly will not stop the tourists who have their own reasons to go to Pattaya and Phuket.)

Westerners have been replaced by the Chinese as the main tourist to the country now – and China has much more clout over Thailand than the west has had for some 30 years.

Having covered most murders of Britons in Thailand since 2000 I had always wondered that these had had no effect on the way people thought. Tourist figures went up and up. Now however, especially since the Koh Tao debacle, there is an awareness at least that Thailand is a country where you do not want to lose your wits. Unfortunately that's what a lot of people want to do on holiday.


Megalodon said...

I don't wish to appear disrespectful in any way, shape or form to the mother of Liam Whitaker, but her comments display an extraordinary degree of naivety in this day and age of the internet.
She says that her family were unaware of the dangers of Thailand; "Cornwall is so far removed in lifestyle!"
Come on - get real! I recall Newquay in the 1960's having quite a hedonistic lifestyle. Not quite 21st century Thailand, admittedly, but nobody can tell me you cannot get plenty of cheap booze and dodgy substances in 21st century Cornwall either.
And surely can be no excuse for ANY Western tourist, of ANY age, to arrive in Thailand unaware of the myriad scams you may, or will, encounter from Day 1 of your holiday?
This young man had no idea of how the Thai Police treat tourists? Had no idea of the tuk tuk driver drug scams?
All of these things when there are a plethora of website, blogs, warnings etc telling you of these things until it comes out of your ears?

I honestly think some people check-in their brains with their luggage at the airport.

Andrew Drummond said...

Strange as it may seem to you Megalodon. These facts you are described are not universally known and the Thai smile is taken very much at face value - which often it is.

Megalodon said...

Well AD, although I suppose I should bow to your better knowledge of these things, I feel we should agree to differ.
I cannot believe that such hostility, scams etc. which we know exist in Thailand are not as universally known as you suggest.
If tourists don't want to believe the facts, so be it - but at least they cannot claim ignorance.

Lee said...

Cant quite agree with your comments Megalodon, These kids can't even point to Thailand on a map when they decide to come here, so little chance they will know of the scams.

Statmonkey said...

Megalodon, there is knowing and there is "knowing". Just being aware of the scams and the work of people like Noise and the tuk-tuk scams is one thing but really understanding that there are people out there who live to scam others is something that I in my naivete didn't get or have exposure to prior to coming to Thailand. I imagine I am not alone. I think a lot of us are brought up to believe in hard work, good people and the golden rule and I have seen it take a lot of exposure to these people for someone to really understand. Example: I know lots of older gentleman who are somewhat worldly who would argue til dawn that "she's different, you don't understand, she loves me". I think that our basic belief in humanity is also working against us. We want to believe that people are good, the dream of the land of smiling happy people, flying sporrans and leprechauns. Okay, I just threw in the last two, to see if people were still reading.

Marlo Stanfield said...

I wish people would cease the portrayal of Brits or young people from and Western country as lambs to the slaughter here in Thailand. Many of them are returning visitors having spent their holidays here on any number of occasions.

Many of these young people tend to behave as though they're invincible the moment they clear immigration at Suvarnabhumi. A far as they're concerned, there's no need to wear a helmet while riding mopeds on some of the most dangerous roads on the planet; it's OK to buy coke or ecstasy off a dodgy bloke in Khaosan Road and then carry it in your bloody pocket; it's NOT hazardous to mouth off to bar staff because, well . . . they're still smiling, right?

Yes, undoubtedly holidaying here can be fraught with danger but isn't that the case anywhere in the world where young people, booze and, occasionally, drugs are involved?

I've seen pissed up young Western kids hanging out the back of tuk-tuks in fast-moving traffic, I've seen them telling Bangkok taxi drivers to F.O. in the street and on more occasions than I care to count, I've seen 3 or 4 of them tumble out of a toilet stall with cocaine falling out of their noses . . . so let's stop pretending they're perfect little adults whose lives are being cut short by the money-grabbing brown people, shall we?

People - yes, even those in their 20s - are responsible for their own actions. While the Thais have a moral obligation to provide acceptable standards of safety, they can't plan for the behaviour of idiots.

Marlo Stanfield said...

So one's ability to point to a country on a map automatically denotes a full understanding of its culture and customs? You don't post under the name "Transam" on Thaivisa forums, do you?

Unknown said...

People hardly search for holidays with searches such as death, scams and drugs in thailand when booking a holiday Megalodon. At least I never have.

Megalodon said...

I believe you, Unknown, when you say that you don't make those searches when booking a holiday. Perhaps you are old & wise, and very knowledgeable as to how things work in Thailand.
But I am saying that it behoves many people - particularly rather gullible young people, those less worldly-wise - to make those searches.
Or at least someone to make those searches on their behalf.
It is not as if the information isn't out there.
At risk of repeating myself, there are a plethora of websites, blogs, on-line documentaries, books, first-hand accounts, diaries, whatever - recounting in detail the pitfalls & perils for a newbie holidaying in Thailand.
Saying that the culture in Cornwall is different to Asia doesn't cut the mustard, I'm afraid.

beebeepatts said...

Is it just me, or is it a fact that the majority of these "victims" are British?

It seems quite rare that we read about Aussies, Yanks, Canadians, etc., finding trouble in Thailand.

D. Farang said...

"Many of these young people tend to behave as though they're invincible the moment they clear immigration at Suvarnabhumi."
Yes. Because it's a rite of passage for young people to go to Thailand and take on more inherent risk than in their country of origin, whether riding a motorbike with no helmet, no shirt and sporting flip-flops, or drinking three buckets of questionable booze at a full moon party (often spiked with Kratom and occasionally Deet - insect repellent), and living to blog about it.
Add onto that a tourist's me-first entitlement, ignorance of Thai culture and Voila! You have the perfect storm for foreigner fatality after fatality in the Kingdom.
After spending the last four months in Thailand, two (more) of my Thai relatives have died on motorbikes on Phuket, both in January 2016. In separate incidents, neither wore a helmet, but I cannot convince my Thai relatives to wear a motorcycle safety helmet. Until systemic changes are made in Thai culture and Thai education, this trend will continue unabated.

I've written two books about proactive tourist safety in Thailand so far, with a third in the works, because it's not getting any better is it? So a few people can avoid coming home in a black body bag. Here's a review of one book (A Place To Get Killed - Tourist Alert Thailand) from Amazon e books Australia:
"I read this as we were en route to Thailand and it definitely affected decisions we made!!!! It was great to have the heads up and learnt a great deal about how Thai culture is vastly different from Western so you can easily misunderstand gestures or situations! Initially, I did wonder why the hell we were going there, but stupidity does seem to play a part, such as drinking and driving. Nonetheless, we were unaware of the high death stats in Thailand and how much is swept under the carpet. Even more shocking is how the authorities assume how people have died, no autopsy in some cases, and will put suicide down despite overwhelming evidence to suggest it was not! An extremely important read, this highlights huge problems, not just affecting tourists but the people themselves such as human trafficking. Media silence is shocking, so people like the author and the journalists at Phuketwan, deserve medals!!!" - Gill Berry
No one deserves medals, it's about getting the word out, so more tourists like Gill Berry will be proactive about their personal safety when on holiday. Another decided not to ride a motorbike anymore in the Kingdom, and drives a car (very carefully). After all, no one relishes to save up their hard-earned money for a three week Thai vacation, only to get hurt or even killed there. Plan Z as it were.
Me? I drive a Toyota Hilux in Thailand, let the motorbikes do as they please, zipping in and out like spawning fish, ignoring their rear-view mirrors, assuming you'll brake or give way, and they're as common as grass.. D. Farang

D. Farang said...

Moreover, many road fatalities are not reported to police, and instead they go down as a generic "accident." Road fatalities in Thailand are grossly underreported.

But Thai roadways are called the second-most dangerous in the world by the world media by dint of published statistics, but IN FACT they are the MOST dangerous roadways in the world for the following reasons:

1.Thailand does not adhere to World Health Organization road safety standards, so only those who actually die on the roadways are counted, not up to 30 days after a collision as per W.H.O. standards.
2. Many Thais take their dead relatives off the roadway and to the hospital ( like mine did ), so it looks like they died at the hospital, or en route. Why?? Because many, many Thais believe if you die on a roadway, your spirit will be relegated to wander the roadways for all eternity! This arcane believe is rooted in Animism. Many roadway deaths are simply called accidents.**

3. **Thousands of actual road deaths are put down as generic accidents instead of road deaths (like my relative in the first accident), thus they are not counted as road fatalities. Only in Thailand you say?

D. Farang said...

Good point. You made me almost fall off my chair laughing Unknown..

Observer said...

I can't speak on behalf of younger people of today but as a Canadian I can assure you that in my time young people would be oblivious to the "ways" of Thailand. Even today with the internet, you will get a large segment of Canadians who travel abroad on "All inclusive holiday packages". Completely oblivious to the customs and dangers of the country they travel to. 3 hour flight to Veradero beach, Cuba for a 2 week all inclusive. Come back to Canada knowing everything about life in Cuba without ever stepping out of the compound. Important stuff like how much to tip a Cuban to get extra shot of rum ...

Megalodon said...

Stickmanbangkok's column today carries a link to a recent story in the UK's Daily Mirror, regarding a UK pensioner found in Thailand suffering from (apparent) unexplained head injuries.
That article, in turn, is linked to a story regarding a 20-something graduate from S. Wales who was hit by a taxi whilst riding her moped in Thailand, during her "rite of passage" gap year backpacking throughout S.E. Asia.
She suffered horrendous leg injuries but would appear - at least - to be back home.
Has cost family & friends a fortune to get her home.
But there are the parents; "oh she forgot to take out insurance what with all the excitement of her gap year.'
'Holiday of a lifetime.'
'You know young people - they don't think anything will happen to them.'
'Thailand isn't like UK - they didn't tell us that this sort of thing could happen..'
And so it goes on.
Somewhat different to tuk tuk drug scams & corrupt Police, I know, but same principle.
"Nobody told us things are different in Thailand."

Megalodon said...

Perhaps you don't need to do such research or searches Unknown. Perhaps you have a wise head on your shoulders.
I'm sure you have.
Others, unfortunately, would appear not to be so fortunately endowed.

Fred Garvin said...

Andrew, Has the block on this site been removed? For the last couple of weeks using TOT its been working without once being redirected to the MICT page. It also comes up using AIS.

Statmonkey said...

I think we also might discount the "nanny West" factor. The last few generations have grown up in a nanny state. Everything is taken care of for them by their society, they live sheltered lives where everyone is protected from scams, "there out to be a law against that, laws that inform your every movement, big brother watching everything. Then they plan a trip to some exotic destination and just assume that it's the same wherever they go. They don't get that third world means something, that a weak state means something, etc. That the freedom of choice allowed by such a society is a double-edged sword with increased freedom of choice come increased risk and accountability.

That said, there are also a lot of people who will never hold themselves accountable and can and will justify any foolishness. I went climbing with a guy who never clipped in. He thought it made him look cool I guess and he always had a reason for not doing it. I don't climb with him anymore because he isn't here to climb with. Then look at No-Yes and Bwian. I really do think they think they are good guys and can't see what all the fuss is about.

Marlo Stanfield said...

No, people don't look for "death" and "scams" but they DO look for "clubs", "drugs", "cheap booze" and "parties" online.

Young people are perfectly aware of the dangers in Thailand. The country isn't a nanny state with a public health notice over every manhole cover warning "Slippery when wet".

I sympathise with those who, having taken reasonable precautions, find themselves in difficulties through no fault of their own but those thinking they're indestructible just because they've had a few beers and a couple of lines of dodgy gear will their risk of meeting a sticky end increased if they don't take extra care.

Andrea Sisaran said...

Il bet the hundreds of people robbed, intimadated, falsely arrested and even killed would not agree they are good guys.
The pensioner lady fleeced of her life savings while hed son was set up on Bwians sex charges. F@@@ing waken up

Andrew Drummond said...

British media are more alert to what has been happening in Thailand. I can take part of the blame for that. But there has been plenty in Scandinavian and German press

Megalodon said...

You may well be correct with your assertion in your first para, Marlo. But whilst not suggesting that grown "children" need to be mollycoddled, perhaps there are good grounds for parents or others in authority to, at least, draw the attention of young people to the perils & pitfalls we have been discussing on this post?

Statmonkey said...

Andrea, I said Bwian was delusional not that he was a good guy. People like Bwian twist things around until they believe their own bullshit. To a lesser extent, these people who come to Thailand and don't adjust to their environment are delusional as well. They buy the "land of smiles" and think they are invincible. I am pretty sure though that a few years of dictatorship, random arrests and killings is going to kill the Thai buzz once and for all so the point is moot. Although I can't believe the lack of outcry over the "re-education" acidental deaths. I guess people didn't get Pol Pot for a long time either.

Megalodon said...

I think you you take some of the "credit," AD, rather than the "blame," for disseminating very necessary information.

***** said...

My oh my if only we could all be as smart as you!
Cornwall cannot be compared to Thailand in any way!! Not even Newquay. Get real.
Many many people have never come across such unbelievable corruption in their lives, especially from the Police.