Sudden rise in British deaths in Thailand gives cause for concern

Published:  22 Aug at 6 PM
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A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office report has shown the 2016 death rate figures of British citizens in Thailand increased by 27 per cent over the 2015 total.

The FCO report, issued after the granting of a Freedom of Information request, showed the total number of deaths of British citizens in Thailand had jumped by over a quarter in 2016, and included a dramatic rise occurring in expats and tourists over 50 years of age. In this group, the increase over the 2015 figure of 281 deaths was 35 per cent, bringing the 2016 total to 263. Overall, in 2016, 452 British nationals’ deaths were reported to British consulates in the kingdom.

The FCO would not disclose details of the origin of the Freedom of Information request, nor would it comment on the worrying increase in deaths or the reasons behind the request. Nor did it explain why the report’s publication on the FCO website came as late as last week when the Freedom of Information request was dated 10 February. The FCO’s only comment, posted at the same time as the report, stated its ‘consular service supports British people across the world who need our help’ and continues with an assurance of its ‘high quality’ service related to challenging circumstances.

UK government figures state around one million British visitors travel to Thailand every year, but do not mention the large number of British expats living, working or retiring in the Southeast Asian country. The official line is that most visits are trouble free, although a small number of violent attacks are known to have occurred, especially on the Samui archipelago’s islands. The striking rise of death rates of those over 50 years of age includes a number of ‘deaths in hospital’. In 2016, 378 Brits over 50 years of age died in Thailand, with 142 of the causes of death recorded as unknown. Natural causes accounted for a further 135, and 60 deaths occurred in hospital, a rise from the zero figures in 2014 and 2015.

Expats living long-term in Thailand are fully aware of the number of untimely and often unexplained deaths of other expats or foreign tourists, with media outlets in Australia and the UK often making much of the events. Even so, the country still attracts British expats for its warmer weather, low cost of living and laid-back lifestyle. The same long-term expats are equally aware that the ‘Land of Smiles’ can demonstrate its darker side, with violence and discrimination not unheard of in the community. The UK government’s travel advisory warns against ‘all but essential travel’ to several Southern provinces, and urges potential travellers in the region to take note of its travel advice.
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