The number of British citizens who died in Thailand last year jumped by more than 27% from the previous year and more than 29% ahead of the average of the two previous years, Foreign & Commonwealth Office data shows, with the most dramatic rise occurring among those 50 years of age and over.
In this age group, the jump was almost 35% from to 2015’s number of deaths, which stood at 281, and almost 44% from 2014’s total, of 263.
In all, the FCO said, there were some 452 British nationals whose deaths in 2016 it had “been made aware of”.
The FCO didn’t comment on the increase, nor suggest any reason for its occurrence. It also didn’t say why the response was published on its website last week, even though the date of its response was dated 10 February, or say who had made the FOI request.
However, in a statement accompanying its response to the FOI request, it noted that “the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s consular service supports British people around the world when they most need our help.
“We continue to invest in our network of professional consular staff so that we continue to provide a high quality service, especially in challenging circumstances focusing on those people who most need our help.”
According to the UK government, British nationals make more than 1 million visits to Thailand ever year, and “most” of these visits are trouble-free.
“But there have been some attacks (sometimes violent), particularly on the islands of Samui archipelago,” it notes, in an online travel advisory.
Leap in age 50+ ‘deaths in hospital’
In its response to the FOI request, which may be viewed by clicking here, the FCO data showing death rates of British citizens in Thailand during the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 is split into five age categories: 0 – 15 years, 16 – 30 years, 31 – 50 years; 50+ years; and “age: unknown”. It also lists a range of causes of death, including Accidental, Drowning, Hospital death, Murder or manslaughter and Suicide.
Last year, the most common cause of death among the 378 Brits over the age of 50 who died in Thailand was “unknown”, and accounted for 142 of them, or 38%. The second-greatest number of deaths in that age group, or 135 of them, was attributed to natural causes. Sixty Britons over the age of 50 died “in hospital”, compared with none in either 2014 or 2015, the data shows.
Expatriates living in Thailand and followers of press coverage of the country know that stories of foreign visitors meeting untimely deaths in Thailand are a fact of life there, and that it has occasionally been criticised for this, particularly in certain UK and Australian newspapers. An Australian author, John Stapleton, wrote a book entitled Thailand: Deadly Destination in 2014, which is still available in the UK on Amazon.co.uk.
Nevertheless, many expats remain, attracted by the combination of the country’s low cost of living, agreeable climate and mostly friendly and accommodating culture (it is, as the tourist brochures and holiday home supplements point out, known as the “Land of Smiles”).
However, as one longtime expatriate there told International Investment, there is a dark and violent side to the culture as well, which tourists and expatriates sometimes come into conflict with.
The UK government’s online travel advisory website, mentioned above, has a summary of its advice with respect to traveling to and within Thailand, which warns against “all but essential travel” to certain southern provinces, near the Thai-Malaysian border (see map, below), and urges those planning to visit the country to “see our travel advice” first.