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Man on the spot: Phuket's Honorary British Consul, Martin Carpenter

Thailand Risky for Drugs, Booze, Bikes, Brits Warned

Friday, July 16, 2010
THAILAND and Phuket remain destinations where a disproportionate number of British citizens find themselves in trouble, the latest figures issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reveal.

According to the report, 292 British citizens died in Thailand in the year to March 31. There were 68 drug arrests and 199 reported ''hospitalisations.'' Arrests/detentions totalled 249, with nine rapes and five sexual assaults recorded. Consular cases amounted to 957, with 827 lost or stolen passports reported.

As a proportion of the number of visitors and residents, Britons were most likely to be
arrested for drugs in Thailand (68 cases), followed by Cyprus (39) and the UAE (24). According to the report, 841,425 Britons visited Thailand. Another 46,000 are categorised as residents.

Britain is one of the few countries that analyses the behavior of its travellers and expats overseas and offers advice to others based on the statistics.

Earlier this year, Phuketwan obtained for the first time official police figures on the numbers of expats (both tourists and residents) involved in fatalities and crimes on Phuket, both as alleged perpetrators and victims. The totals were smaller than anticipated.

While the number of deaths in Thailand also appears to be high when compared to other destinations, most observers attribute this to the high proportion of expat residents and visitors who tend to be middle-aged or older, and who show an inclination towards risky activities that include drug-taking, excessive consumption of alcohol and motorcycle-riding.

A lack of travel insurance and inadequate preparation compound the hazards faced by many Britons abroad, according to the official British Behavior Abroad report.

''Whilst lost or stolen passports were by far the most frequent problem encountered by British tourists and residents (27,272 reported incidents worldwide), other more serious problems highlighted by the report include drink and drug-related arrests, high numbers of road traffic accidents, and extremely high treatment and repatriation bills resulting from a lack of adequate travel insurance,'' the report says.

''Separate FCO research also highlights a risky lack of preparation, leading to many preventable incidents. Research found . . . one in five are still travelling without travel insurance. Britons are also spending nearly twenty minutes longer cleaning their house before they go abroad (46 minutes), than they do researching the local laws and customs of where they are travelling to.''

Spain is at the top of the list for consular assistance cases (5283), although as a proportion of British visitors and residents, most assistance was needed by Britons in Thailand (957), Pakistan (273), and Cyprus (736).

There were 563 British deaths in Germany and 471 Britons hospitalised in Greece. In addition to assistance cases, FCO staff around the world dealt with 1.95 million consular enquiries last year.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Jeremy Browne was quoted as saying: ''This report shines a light on the number of Britons who get into difficulty abroad each year. The worrying fact is that so many of these situations are preventable. Helping out Britons in trouble abroad is part of our job, but we can't get you out of jail or pay your hospital bills.''

There are no official figures for alcohol-related incidents but feedback from consular staff around the world ''consistently reveals that alcohol contributes to many arrests and hospitalisations abroad. FCO staff also commented that excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to disrespectful behavior which can cause difficulties between locals and British travellers.''

Here's what the report has to say specifically about Thailand:

.. A high proportion of reported illness and hospitalisation cases are due to liver and renal failure.
Those patients who are hospitalised in government-run hospitals are expected to be cared for by family members - unlike the UK where care is provided by hospital staff - and many British nationals do not have people to care for them in this way.

.. A number of British nationals have suffered severe mental health episodes because of drug use, in a small number of cases resulting in suicide.

.. British nationals should be aware that being found guilty of possession of 20 grams, or more, of a class A drug carries the death penalty. Amphetamines and Ecstasy are regarded as class
A drugs and possession or trafficking of them carries the same penalties as, for example, heroin.

.. There have been a number of incidents where tourists have had their drinks drugged (in both tourist areas and red light districts). You should be careful about taking drinks from strangers and be wary at clubs and parties, particularly in the Koh Samui area and at the Full Moon party on Koh Phangan.

.. British nationals who receive a UK state pension are not entitled to annual increments in Thailand, and coupled with the weak Pound many are finding they cannot afford local private health care and daily living expenses. Private health care can cost around 1000 pounds per day for treatment in ICU.

.. Riding a motorcycle or scooter in Thailand can be dangerous. On average 38 people a day die in motorcycle accidents in Thailand. The Thai law that safety helmets must be worn is widely
ignored, a contributing factor in many tourist deaths each year.

.. Before you hire a vehicle you should check your travel insurance policy carefully to ensure that you are covered and check the small print of the lease agreement carefully. Also check that the company you are hiring off is reputable.

.. You should never hand over your passport as a guarantee against returning a motor scooter or cycle. Unscrupulous owners have been known to hold on to passports against claimed damage to the motor scooter or cycle.

.. You should avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people. If you become aware of any nearby violence you should stay indoors, monitor the FCO travel advice and the local media.

. It is a criminal offence to make any defamatory remarks about the king or the royal family in Thailand, punishable by a sentence of three to fifteen years.

.. By law, tourists are expected to carry their passports with them at all times in Thailand.

.. One specific case which highlights the importance of taking out the right level of insurance is that of a British national who fell off the back of a motorbike while in Thailand, seriously injuring his knee. Despite taking the prescribed medication, his knee became infected so severely that he required intravenous antibiotics. He was fortunate that his insurance covered the cost of all his medical treatment which came to about 10,000 pounds.
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Phuket Crime: Twenty Expat Victims Named
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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292 deaths?! Does this not include those that live here, and just die through old age / natural causes?

Posted by Bert on July 16, 2010 10:26

Editor Comment:

The Foreign Office records the deaths of all British citizens in Thailand, visitors and residents

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Not all Brits are drunks, however the weakness of the pound should decrease the amount of alcohol imbued, or just discourage the drunks from going to Thailand. Thus many of the "health" problems solve themselves.

Posted by Catm on July 17, 2010 23:58


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