Are expats living in Thailand risking their lives

Published:  24 Mar at 6 PM
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Recent surveys as to which international retirement havens are the world’s most dangerous have led to renewed focus on Thailand.

The popular tropical destination has been a hub for long-term expats from colder climes ever since it was discovered by backpackers in the 1960s, and is now a favourite for the elderly as well as iwith more adventurous younger travellers. Even paradise, it seems, has its dark side, with media reports on the unusual number of unexplained expat deaths in the country hitting the headlines with increasing frequency.

Looking back over stories published during the last decade or so, the number of Britons who’ve been found murdered in the so-called Land of Smiles is well into double figures and still rising, crowned by last year’s horrendous rape and killing of two young British holidaymakers on the island of Koh Tao. However, warnings of the dangers have always been out there, and the British government’s reluctance to tell it like it is on its website has attracted much criticism over the years.

Perhaps the most worrying set of statistics relates to the high number of ‘suicides’ involving death by jumping off balconies in expat-oriented condo blocks. In almost all cases, the much-maligned Thai police simply determine the death was a suicide and close the case without any effort to discover what may actually have happened. It’s now a bad joke in the foreign community, with a recent article amusingly suggesting that ‘the balcony did it’.

The hub of balcony-related suicides seems to be the coastal resort of Pattaya, known locally as ‘sin city’ for very obvious reasons including its popularity as a home-from-home for criminals from across the world. Bangkok is the top scorer in this grisly contest, but even the relatively quiet northern city of Chiang Mai now hits the balcony stakes headlines with increasing frequency.

To be fair to the no doubt well-intentioned Thai police persons who don’t quite get the possibly disturbing realities behind the balcony-related deaths, it’s possible that Thailand’s ultra-cheap booze and easy sex life has a lot to do with the death toll. Too much cheap alcohol, combined with despair when the retirement dream evaporates along with the new love and the life savings, can play havoc with expat emotional and physical balance on the 30th floor.
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