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Is Thailand Safe?

Before coming to Thailand I was slightly worried about the reports of the large number of foreigners (farangs) that get killed or injured there each year.

As a guy who’d dated Asian women in the past, I was also aware of the large numbers of stories about older guys getting murdered by their Thai brides in order to collect their life insurance or pension payouts.

So I decided to do a little bit of research to see if there was any truth to the theory that Thailand is unsafe for foreigners.

There are nearly daily reports of foreigners dying in Thailand.

However, it must be borne in mind that this is in the context of huge numbers of foreigners visiting the country each year. The UK foreign office report that over 800,000 British citizens visit Thailand each year. Wikipedia records that over 22 million foreigners visited Thailand in 2012.

With that in mind, I took the last 100 reported incidents of farangs dying in Thailand, and did some analysis of the probable causes of death.

How Did Foreigners Die in Thailand?

So how did foreigners die in Thailand? The Infographic below is a summary of my findings:

How foreigners died in Thailand

How farangs died in Thailand

I’ve noted 17% of the deaths as suspicious. These are incidents in which somebody has died and the cause of death wasn’t immediately apparent from the newspaper reports of the case.

Many of these cases involve older men who have moved to Thailand and who have Thai brides or girlfriends. I’ll keep an open mind as to what happened in these cases.

Only one of the deaths I looked at clearly involved a Thai woman murdering her farang partner so she could collect his money. Of the rest, the majority of cases involved fights or brawls. Farang on farang deaths appeared just as common as farangs being killed by a local.

How to Have a Safe Trip to Thailand

So how can you have a safer vacation in Thailand?

One third of deaths I looked into appeared to be caused by riding motorbikes, drugs or going into the sea.

So by staying out of the ocean and not getting onto a motorbike you can massively reduce your risk of getting into difficulty.

In many of these cases, alcohol could also have been a contributory factor. It’s worth bearing in mind that standard cans of Thai beer like Chang are actually a lot stronger than European or American beers. Chang Classic is 6.4% alcohol whereas many British lagers are around 4.8%. That’s a third stronger than an average European beer.

If you must swim or ride a bike in Thailand, make sure you stay out of the sea when the red flags are flying, and if you’re on a bike, put a helmet on. Sure, the locals don’t often wear helmets, but they don’t care. They’re largely Buddhists, and know they’ll be reincarnated after death.

Incidentally, the weather is often a likely factor in sea or road related deaths. Having lived in SE Asia for over 6 months, I can tell you that the weather here changes extremely quickly and without warning. When I lived in China, I once got caught out by a flash flood, and had to paddle through two inches of water to reach the safety of home. And in Thailand, the sudden gust front that preceded a thunderstorm was powerful enough to blow down a couple of trees and knock out the power supply to my apartment building.

Of the remaining deaths, the biggest cause appears health related, particularly heart attacks. Thailand is especially popular with older, retired Western guys. If anything, deaths from natural causes are under-reported by the media.

After that, young men doing crazy things appears a very common cause of death in Thailand. Young Russian men are particularly prone to this and motorbikes or the sea are often involved.

I’ll say men because of the reports of foreigners dying in Thailand that I looked at, 95% of the deceased were men.

Suicide is a factor in a few cases of deaths in Thailand. While there are various tragic reasons for these, one recurring theme appears to be that of a foreigner running out of money while living in Thailand. So if you want to retire in another country, make sure you can afford it.

Thankfully, Thailand seems a safe place for a family vacation. Only one of the reports I looked at in this survey relates to somebody under the age of 18.

Is Bangkok Dangerous?

My uncle goes to Thailand a lot, but while I was also here he never came to visit me in Bangkok.

Why not?

He claimed that Bangkok was really dangerous, and he didn’t want to come to the Sukhumvit area that I was staying in.

So is he justified in saying that Bangkok is dangerous?

From my research the answer is a resounding NO.

In the reports I looked at, only 5% of the foreigners dying in Thailand did so in Bangkok.

By comparison, 28% died in Phuket, and and 34% in Pattaya.

7% of deaths occurred in Chiang Mai, and the rest in the less populated provinces and beach resorts.

So by far the riskiest places to visit in Thailand appear to be those wildly popular hedonistic beach resorts of Pattaya and Phuket.

Anyway, enjoy your time in Thailand, but at the same time – stay safe!

Many thanks to Farang Exits for the data used in this article and the associated Infographic.


One Response to “Is Thailand Safe?”

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for doing the research and providing the results so clearly.

    Most places are fine if you stay sensible and cautious.

    Posted by J from Travel on Inspiration | December 6, 2013, 1:51 pm

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