Is expat suicide becoming endemic in Thailand?

Published:  3 Oct at 6 PM
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Thailand is seeing an inexplicable increase in expat suicides.

For several decades, the chaos on Thailand’s roads and the resultant expat deaths made headlines in both the Thai and English language media. Nowadays, although road accidents are still worth a mention on and offline, a new, inexplicable cause of death for expat males seems to be suicide, even in cases where it’s not obvious. A quick trawl of last month’s online English news websites and a few forums reveals five such possibly self-inflicted deaths over the past three weeks.

It’s not as though the victims were all elderly retirees literally sick to death of the symptoms of their various illnesses, as most of those who died were under 60 years of age. In an attempt to create a trend, various media outlets are referring to the increase in expat suicides as a ‘defined pattern’ across Thailand in general. In the case of an Australian expat in his sixties found dead in a Buriram hotel, his 22 year old Thai wife told reporters he’d been depressed since his personal belongings and passport were stolen during a visit to Pattaya. Local police, he told his wife, hadn’t given him any assistance in tracing either his belongings or the thief.

Last week in Chiang Mai, two male Western expats younger than retirement age were found dead in two separate locations, one in a condo and one in a resort hotel, and in January Bangkok was the centre of interest as two expats committed suicide in the same week. The general opinion both in and outside Thailand’s expat community is that foreigners who commit suicide are either mentally ill or have fatal illnesses which cause them to choose self-euthanasia rather than the prospect of dying in a Thai private hospital and lumbering their nearest and dearest with massive bills.

Should the mentally ill option be the real reason, it highlights the fact that Thailand can’t even deal with its own peoples’ serious mental issues due to lack of resources, let alone attempting to help expats with similar problems. Long-stayers believe stress due to the increasing feeling of no longer being welcome in Thailand coupled with the increasing strict – some say prejudiced – official view of expatriates are two reasons why the only way out for some long-stayers may be to end their lives before their money runs out and they’re forced to return to a country they no longer recognise.
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