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Murder victim DaShawn Longfellow, an expat death on Phuket in 2010

Phuket's '50 Unexplained Deaths' Attract a Scaremonger

Friday, March 11, 2011
News Analysis

WHENEVER deaths in Thailand are unexplained, the conspiracy theorists come out of the woodwork - or these days the teak door - and offer up alarming scare stories that fall under the heading ''junk journalism.''

The five recent deaths in Chiang Mai that have yet to be comprehensively explained have led to one exercise in alarmist nonsense under the byline Gavin M. Greenwood, ''a security consultant with the Hong Kong-based Allan & Associates firm.''

Engaging in flights of ludicrous fancy, Mr Greenwood writes: ''In fact, although there is no public data on foreign fatalities and detailed descriptions of the cause of death of tourists in Thailand, anecdotal evidence indicates that a disturbing number of foreign nationals die of unexplained causes - as many as 50 on the island of Phuket alone over a recent eight-month period.''

Writers who start a sentence with ''in fact'' then add ''although there is no public data'' before declaring that ''anecdotal evidence indicates'' should be treated with absolute disdain.

Asia Sentinel and irrawaddy.org have spread this nonsense when it deserved to go on a good editor's spike. Best stay away from this rubbish in future.

Unfortunately Mr Greenwood has already been given the opportunity to circulate his logic on the Internet, which is what's really scary. We hate to be purveyors of misinformation, but in this instance, we're obliged to publish Mr Greenwood's illogical train of thought so we can demolish it.

''In Phuket's case,'' he writes, ''a report by police between the end of December 2009 and mid-August 2010 on the island itself, which was expanded upon by the local Teak Door blog, offers a snapshot of how the deaths occurred over the period.

''Three deaths were acknowledged by the police to be result of direct criminal violence. However, a further 15 were recorded as dying from heart failure, falls and 'unknown causes' - as broad category that would also encompass deaths from drug overdoses.

''Another five were recorded as suicides, and the remainder died as a result of traffic accidents, drowning or electrocution.

''This pattern is likely to be repeated in Thailand's other beach resorts, with variations in inland areas such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai.''

Ho hum. A security expert consults the Internet, finds spurious information that supports the spurious argument he is making, and presents it as spurious fact. He takes lies about Phuket and makes them lies about all of Thailand.

While there are many questions that still need to be answered about the Chiang Mai deaths, there have not been ''as many as 50 unexplained deaths of foreign nationals'' on Phuket ''over a recent eight-month period'' . . . unless you count drownings at Karon beach.

There were 73 expat deaths on the official police list for Phuket in 2010, the vast majority of them with acceptable causes.

It's true that too many deaths in Thailand go unexplained. What's required in future, though, is better standards of forensic investigation and more frequent autopsies, not junk journalism.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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What has Gavin M. Greenwood to do with teakdoor?

Posted by TheOldBugger on March 11, 2011 16:28

Editor Comment:

He used teakdoor as a source of data.

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and phuket wan is pure facts????

Posted by john s on March 11, 2011 17:54

Editor Comment:

That's right, jon. Apart from your comments and other comments, Phuketwan is based on facts. If you are unable to tell the difference between journalism and idle speculation, then maybe you should stop giving us the benefit of your wisdom.

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Never mind Greenwood- Thaigeezer probably has 10 pages of conspiracy theory by now - all of it right, of course. 55555555555555.

Posted by Mister Ree on March 11, 2011 19:59

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He may be off the charts...but is closer to truth than facts...Whenever, something happens in Thailand..Its either Suicide or coincidence..

How do you explain that Thailand does in fact has the highest number of suicidal deaths in the world for expats? ohh not to mention..expats just jumping from condos etc...

Posted by lavista4u on March 12, 2011 10:12

Editor Comment:

He's not just ''off the charts.'' He's spreading false information and pretending it's fact. This is rumor-mongering, scare-mongering, breaking all the rigorous ethics of investigative journalism.

No doubt there are unexplained deaths that deserve further investigation. The original article, though, does nothing to cut through the urban myths and false information: it magnifies them.

Wait for real journalists to look at the issue.

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"Editor Comment:

Wait for real journalists to look at the issue."

What, like you? OK, we're waiting.

Posted by Harry Barracuda on March 12, 2011 11:53

Editor Comment:

Harry Barracuda, you're a fish out of water, washed up and flapping in fast-drying ditch. Wait as long as you like.

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He is also using my oft pasted list of the Andaman region 2009 deaths and the date is wrong in his article - it states 2007, not 2009.

Posted by MediaWatcher on March 13, 2011 09:54

Editor Comment:

Most of the article is questionable. To have a writer promoting these kinds of myths rather than busting them with facts is saddening. To have this article published on two reputable websites reflects poorly on the editors at both.

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(moderated)

Posted by Nathan on March 13, 2011 14:28

Editor Comment:

We don't take unjustified criticism any more, Nathan, especially from people who can't tell the difference between football and life and death.


Tuesday October 26, 2021
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