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Thailand travel tragedies

Posted by somtam2000 on 31/3/2011 at 09:59 admin

The parents of Sarah Carter, the young Kiwi traveller who died in mysterious circumstances in Chiang Mai earlier this year, are about to launch a Thai-focused website, ThailandTravelTragedies . There is some media on the site here.

I assume this is in part due to the obvious runaround and apparent cover-up that has followed their daughter's death and it will be interesting to see how the site develops.

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Posted by busylizzy on 31/3/2011 at 14:17

Thanks for that Somtam. I've been following the story with interest and it has featured quite regularly in local news here in NZ. When it first broke here a month or so ago, the first thing I thought of were the deaths that occurred in Phi Phi a couple of years ago, including Jill St Onge. Similar situation where there were a couple of deaths of people in adjoining rooms.

It's all very strange - and the Thai's don't do themselves any favours by denying that there is a problem.

For anyone that hasn't heard the story, a young 23-year old dies suddenly in Chiang Mai in Feb 2011. Two of her friends were also hospitalised and at least one of them had some sort of heart surgery. A total of 6 died in Chiang Mai with similar symptoms, I think 4 of them were staying at the same hotel, and one of the other 2 had used facilities at that particular hotel.

More here and here...

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Posted by roff on 31/3/2011 at 17:05

The Downtown Inn.. might be one to avoid then!

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 31/3/2011 at 19:15

@Bizzy - "a young 23-year old dies suddenly"


I heard it was an old 23-year old...


Sorry, couldn't resist being a wise-guy. Tautologies are my favourite.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 31/3/2011 at 19:45

Was this the seafood thing? I remember hearing about a few people dying under mysterious circumstances about 3 weeks ago in Chiang Mai...

Thought it was supposed to be a suspected food poisoning thing?

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Posted by busylizzy on 1/4/2011 at 02:35

At my end of the spectrum, Cranky, ... 23 years is young! [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]

The first report (a day or two after it happened) was that she (Sarah) died of food poisoning after eating a seaweed snack bought from the local market. Then curry was blamed. Sarah and one of her friends required urgent heart surgery. (The third friend was also seriously ill but I don't believe had surgery. Sarah died, and her friends survived.).

A week or so later, it was reported that she actually had a 'highly infectious virus that sparked a heart condition'. At least some of the 6 others also died of heart conditions, although Thai doctors claimed that the couple had both died of heart attacks - within hours of each other?! Unlikely.

It's a bit different from the PhiPhi island deaths in that the symptoms were different. There, the suspicions were that the deaths were perhaps due to gases from a water treatment plant behind the hotel getting sucked into the aircon unit of their room.

I was tempted to post something here about the Chiang Mai situation at the time, but I was loathe to initiate a 'avoid the Downtown Inn' type of discussion as nothing was known for certain at the time. But then then came the reports of subsequent deaths - 5 of 6 had a connection with Downtown Inn, and all deaths were within a few weeks of each other. A Thai woman died in the adjacent room, the day before Sarah died.

As far as I know this all occurred around late Jan- mid Feb this year.

I also read that the Downtown Inn is owned by the ex-Mayor of Chiang Mai. Now I don't want to suggest that little fact could imply any sort of cover-up but it does make you wonder.... something is not right.

I don't think there is need to panic - but I just wouldn't be inclined to stay around that particular hotel.

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Posted by Thomas922 on 6/4/2011 at 15:53

I say we all just keep the western public and our friends informed of that "Downtown Inn". We have to fight with our wallets.

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Posted by shaydan_01 on 7/4/2011 at 16:22

My partner and I stayed here in 2008 for a few nights while I nursed myself back to health with an extreme case of thai-belly (which was definitely not caught from the hotel as I became ill before arriving). It certainly gave me goosebumps when I first read this story. The death of a loved one must be a notch harder to deal with under these types of circumstances. Let's hope the answers manage to creep out sooner or later.

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Posted by busylizzy on 8/5/2011 at 15:55

There has been an update on death of Sarah Carter - the young NZ girl who died in Chiang Mai earlier this year. It is now believed that it is likely she died of chlorpyrifos insecticide poisoning. Several of the rooms in the Downtown Inn (including the room she stayed in) appear to have been sprayed with an insecticide used to treat an infestation of bedbugs - one which is apparently banned in many other countries.

A journalist from the NZ-produced news program '60 minutes' went to the Downtown Inn and managed to sneak in the 5th floor room that Sarah and her friends stayed in. They took various swab samples from the room from the inside of the aircon unit, etc. Interestingly, the entire 5th floor was being cleaned top to bottom at the time the journalist was there. In spite of the cleaning, the swabs, brought back to NZ for lab analysis showed high levels of the insecticide poisoning.


The full story is here: http://www.3news.co.nz/Sarah-Carters-likely-cause-of-death---insecticide/tabid/423/articleID/210265/Default.aspx

The story was shown on TV tonight - and should be available for viewing on this website shortly. http://www.tv3.co.nz/Shows/60Minutes/Video.aspx

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Posted by busylizzy on 8/5/2011 at 16:51

TV3 have loaded the video but it appears that it is only available to viewer in NZ. That sucks - especially when the story is of interests to people from around the world. Not sure if there is any way around that.

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Posted by busylizzy on 9/5/2011 at 15:42

Another article in today's paper, very similar to the previous one last night, but this time with more comments from Sarah's father. One comment he made I would was particularly pertinent:

"The Thais are very good at sending off Western drug traffickers to the gallows, so this will be the test of how serious they are when it comes to looking at criminal negligence involving their own people and will really show the world whether there's one standard for everyone or whether there are two different standards - one for Westerners and one for their own people."

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10724455

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Posted by jaizan on 11/5/2011 at 00:32

It's really bad that action was not taken earlier.

If this insecticide is allowed to be used indoors, how many other hotels have similar problems, but on a smaller scale? ie Just causing illness, or single deaths.

Thailand needs some fast changes of law in order to keep it's reputation intact.

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/5/2011 at 09:53

"Thailand needs some fast changes of law in order to keep it's reputation intact."

Thailand is not a society of law. It doesn't work that way here. Changing laws doesn't change realities on the ground. Hell, prostitution is actually illegal in Thailand, but you'd never know it.

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Posted by rledez1990 on 12/5/2011 at 15:55

I've been to Thailand before, and I know my doubts are silly, but would you all say that it is still safe to travel to Thailand? Or to phrase it in a less provocative manner, how high are the risks of this happening to me? Reading about these and other similar fatalities has just worried me slightly because unlike getting drunk on the beach, swimming in rip tides, riding a motorbike etc. these deaths seem almost unavoidable? Were the people staying in horrible dingy hotels or was it a nice place that happened to kill them? I'm just wondering if anyone has tips on how to AVOID...dying?

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Posted by MADMAC on 12/5/2011 at 16:26

Over 14 million come here for vacation every year. The number of people dying is quite small indeed. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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Posted by busylizzy on 12/5/2011 at 16:31

I don't think your doubts are silly - but this was the reason I was initially reluctant to post anything about this story. I didn't want to be appear alarmist. The reality is thousands (millions?) of tourists go through Thailand every year and 99.999 % make it home safe and sound.

This story, as tragic as it is, wouldn't stop me from going back. But it DOES make me aware that standards just aren't the same as at home, that rules and laws aren't abided and essentially you have to take responsibility for you own safety and welfare. Unfortunately, in this case there probably isn't anything these victims could have done differently. Who would have expected this?

The 60 Minutes program showed the inside of the hotel and it looked perfectly respectable - a place I could have quite easily stayed in. If you read the reviews on TripAdvisor, they are, for the most part, fairly good. (Interestingly, there have been very few posts this year. I read elsewhere that people have posted recent reviews on TripAdvisor for this hotel but they are being suppressed.)

Assuming that this independent investigation is correct and that it WAS insecticide poisoning, was the hotel at fault? It's hard to say. They contracted someone else to come in and spray for bedbugs. I would suggest it's the contractor/sprayer who is at fault. Either way, the hotel WAS wrong in terms of the way they continue to evade responsibility. They should have shut the hotel down pending further investigation.

In the 60 minutes program, they interviewed the governor of Chiang Mai. It was appalling. He still insists that the 7 deaths are a coincidence. In his words: 'It is bad luck for that hotel". What crap!

Anyhow, I'm rambling. Going back to your question -is it safe? You are probably more at risk if you hire a motorbike, get obnoxiously drunk - or both. Go and have fun. But be responsible and look after yourself. Some things are just out of your control- but don't let it stop you getting out there and experiencing life.

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Posted by busylizzy on 12/5/2011 at 16:32

Madmac got in first. And said it much more concisely!

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Posted by rledez1990 on 13/5/2011 at 03:59

Thank you for your reassurance! The 'risk' was never something that would stop me enjoying my trip, but I am wary of it. I guess based on numbers I'm more likely to be hit by a bus tomorrow than die of insectiside poisoning in Thailand, and I wouldn't let that stop me leaving the house... I suppose what makes it more worrying is that even though the victims couldn't have done anything differently, someone at the hotel could have. I hope that at some point moves are made to regulate issues such as this in Thailand to put everyones mind at rest!
Thanks again!

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Posted by busylizzy on 13/5/2011 at 04:12

Well, the Thai authorities are certainly on to it. According to article in this morning's paper, they have rules out homicide and drugs. Good grief!

http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/asia/4998909/Thais-rule-out-murder-drugs-in-Kiwis-death

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Posted by tonia on 24/5/2011 at 15:14

I'm traveling to Chiang Mai soon and I must say this is NOT making me a happy camper. I've been following this story too and am livid that the hotel is still open. Really??

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Posted by busylizzy on 24/5/2011 at 17:24

Tonia - yep, as far as I know, it's still open. They never actually shut down even during the initial investigations. However, don't let this put you off going to Chiang Mai. I hate to say this, but it could have happened anywhere. It doesn't excuse what happened, but don't change your plans. Just don't stay at the Downtown Inn.

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Posted by Sparts on 25/5/2011 at 23:09

Tonia, as BuzzyLizzy said, don't let it put you off.
Chaing Mai is an amazing place (my favourite place in SE Asia - so far!)
The folks there in my expeience are fantastic, helpful and accomodating. But like any city there are some bad eggs...

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Posted by tonia on 25/5/2011 at 23:15

Thanks BusyLizzy and Sparts. I'm still going. That's my start-off point before hitting Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, so any tips, must-do's, must-see's you may have would be much appreciated. I've been to Thailand a couple of times but it'll be my first time in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia :)

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Posted by busylizzy on 16/8/2011 at 08:50

An update.....

The Thai Public Health Ministry have released a report of their findings into these deaths. They essentially say that Sarah and some of the others were exposed to pesticides, but can't confirm the precise cause of death. They do confirm that the cause is unlikely to be bacterial or viral, and that "Pesticides in the organophosphate, organochlorine and carbamate group, such as cholpyrifos, are also unlikely to be the cause because they conflict with clinical specimens and blood test".

So... in other words, they can confirm what they DIDN'T die of, and can confirm that they were exposed to pesticides - but can't confirm that this is what they actually died of. Hmmm... There is also no indication in the news article of how they were exposed to said insecticides.

Full article here:]http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/5452690/Pesticides-fingered-in-Thai-tourist-death

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Posted by busylizzy on 16/8/2011 at 17:14

A further update tonight explains more details of the report. It supposedly contained nine recommendations to reduce further risks of chemical and pesticide exposure in Thailand.

"The recommendations included setting up a panel to recommend stricter measures for the use of pesticides in hotel and market areas, a channel to receive notification of illnesses to tourists and expatriates, and for hotel operators to use only licenced pest control companies with contracts specifying which chemicals would be used.

It also called for a food safety standard to be developed around the Night Bazaar area used by tourists in Chiang Mai, and for health education cards advising tourists about food safety and other health concerns to be made available to foreign visitors."

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10745480

Not sure what I think about all this, really. Just reporting it here for the sake of closure on the saga. Call me a cynic, but will any of the recommendations be put in place? Will it really make a difference to how hotels, night markets, etc operate? Dunno. Doubt it.

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Posted by MADMAC on 16/8/2011 at 21:03

Not much changes in Thailand because of government edict. It's not really a society of laws.

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Posted by daawgon on 14/9/2012 at 00:54

An update was reported on CNN today, "Mysterious tourist deaths in Asia prompt poison probe"

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Posted by ryanmolly1 on 14/9/2012 at 10:14

I was just sent this link by my father. I'm going to Thailand for the first time in January and though I'm not generally much of a worrier these stories scared me. Particularly because of the mysterious circumstances.


http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/13/health/mysterious-tourist-deaths-asia/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

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Posted by altmtl on 16/9/2012 at 08:40

Might be of interest to some... http://www.facebook.com/ProtectedTravels

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Posted by Captain_Bob on 16/9/2012 at 13:02

For anyone who might be concerned about the Downtown Inn, it was demolished two months ago. See video here http://youtu.be/5rOvS0cOCFs

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