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Even the beauty of Phi Phi masks some tourism tragedies

Tourism Death Riddles Lead to 'Thai Tragedies' Site

Wednesday, April 13, 2011
A NEW era in tourism transparency has begun with the launch, probably more in sorrow than in anger, of

It's the product of the grief, emptiness and frustration felt by Richard Carter, the father of 23-year-old Sarah Carter, a New Zealander who became one of a series of seven deaths in Chiang Mai earlier this year.

Those deaths have yet to be fully explained. The media, particularly in New Zealand, continues to ask questions that the Thai authorities have yet to answer adequately.

Was there a cover up? Were all seven deaths connected? We just don't know.

Meanwhile, the mystery inevitably reverberates in print and online, through backpack guesthouses and visitor hotels, undermining confidence in tourism and Thailand.

Earlier this month, two Swedish tourists were found, one dead and the other dying, under a shower in a Krabi guesthouse. Were they electrocuted? No, says the guesthouse owner. Yes, says one doctor.

Local police can only await an autopsy report.

Two years ago on Phi Phi, young travellers Julie Bergheim from Norway and American Jill St Onge died within hours of each other after falling ill at the Laleena guesthouse.

It will come as no comfort to Richard Carter, just as there has been no comfort or closure for the family and friends of the two victims, that no cause has ever been determined for that tragedy.

On Phuket, we've also had our share of deaths that are difficult to explain or to be understood in developed parts of the world, where coroners and medical examiners determine causes with great precision.

The same forensic intent is not always evident in Thailand, where the level of investigation can vary enormously. Four years on, a British coroner last month blamed a Thai airline in part for a Phuket holiday air crash that killed 90 people, eight of them Britons.

There has been no public reaction in Thailand to the damning British finding, just the same continuing uncomfortable silence.

Yet even good detectives, so it seems, never have it easy.

In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, seldom was more effort expended in determining not the cause of death, but the identities of the victims. However, even with a sophisticated system and experts from 40 countries involved, mistakes were made.

Faulty conclusions were reached. Wrong bodies were sent to wrong families.

Chance or coincidence, sometimes both, play a part in traveller's deaths. Just as the Indian Ocean tsunami could not have been predicted, so it is never going to be possible to remove the risk from travel.

What can certainly be improved, though, is the reaction to unexpected deaths in distant places. Whenever there's a mysterious death, rumors abound. Conspiracy theorists have a field day.

One junk journalist recently claimed online that there had been ''50 unexplained deaths'' among expats on Phuket between December and August last year. Yet Phuket police recorded only 73 expat deaths for the whole of 2010, and officers provided sensible explanations for all but a few.

In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Melbourne forensic dentist Tony Hill, undaunted by the task of staring at the faces of the dead daily, quoted nineteenth century British Prime Minister William Gladstone:

''Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead. I will measure exactly the sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.''

It is to be hoped that Richard Carter keeps the conspiracy theorists at bay and encourages, in his daughter's memory, extremely precise forensic reporting and editing at
Young French Tourist's Death No. 6 in Chiang Mai
Latest Two young French female tourists fell sick in Chiang Mai and one subsequently died - a fatality now being linked to a series of six deaths in the Thai holiday city.
Young French Tourist's Death No. 6 in Chiang Mai

Phuket's '50 Unexplained Deaths' Attract a Scaremonger
News Analysis It's great to have a security expert who is interested in unexplained deaths on Phuket and in Chiang Mai, but editors really should let the facts get in the way of his ''gory story.''
Phuket's '50 Unexplained Deaths' Attract a Scaremonger

Two Swedes Die in Krabi Shower: Riddle Remains
Latest Second autopsies on the bodies of two Swedish tourists may be the only hope of determining what caused their deaths in a Krabi bungalow riddle.
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Phi Phi's Tourist Deaths: A Lingering Riddle
Latest There are fewer deaths more tragic than holiday deaths, and no mystery more puzzling than the riddle of what killed two young women on Phi Phi one year ago.
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Phi Phi Police 'Beat Up Tourists,' says Phuket Expat
Latest An American on Phi Phi this week said that he saw several tourists beaten by police and now wants to know that the group - American, Australian and British - are safe.
Phi Phi Police 'Beat Up Tourists,' says Phuket Expat


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Just this very week, I have had to assist 2 teenage backpackers, both struck down by unusual illness which hospitals believe to be a mystery virus, both staying 400m from the downtown inn in Chiang Mai.

Yet when I talk to the hospital doctors, none of them thought to do any tests for echovirus despite that being one possible suggested cause of the deaths.

Posted by LivinLOS on April 13, 2011 18:58


Classic bury your head in the sand and hope it goes away. It's not unusual for people to get paid off to keep things quiet so as not to disrupt business.

Openness, honesty, integrity and plain common decency is lost here.

The truth will set you free.

Posted by Graham on April 14, 2011 11:55


It's a strange country, answers are rarely given, even when thorough investigations are held, its as if they are scared of revealing anything..this is a trait of thailand, probably stems from fear and retribution...It seems to be in all walks of life, from the top to the bottom...maybe one day it will change..

Posted by johndev on April 16, 2011 06:34

Editor Comment:

It's only a strange country to strangers who are locked in to their own ideas and beliefs.

Sunday June 23, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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