Gabriella Rose-Marie Strand, a 60 year old Swedish expat who lived as a beggar on Phuket, Thailand, has been found dead.
“Having overstayed her visa, she begged for rice and slept wherever she could find a place to lay her head,” writes Phuketwan in its report of the sad demise.
”We all knew her,” Patong police lieutenant Jukkapong Luang-on told Phuketwan. ”She had been eking out an existence around Patong for years.”
Ms. Strand’s body was found at the Loma Park food centre, on the foreshore at Patong, about 9am on Saturday 29 May 2010. She was fully clothed and wearing her small backpack, which contained a repatriation notification card from Immigration and medication from Patong Hospital.
The Immigration card meant that her passport was being held, most likely while Swedish authorities sought family to pay her fare home.
The woman’s body was taken to Patong Hospital, where nurses told the officer that Ms Strand was already well-known.
”She had no money and could not pay for medication,” the lieutenant said.
”We have reported her case and other Phuket cases many times to the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok but the Swedish officials have always been unwilling to pay for these people to be repatriated.
Swedish attitude problem
”Why are these people allowed to come here from Sweden when Thailand is just a developing country? We cannot afford to support beggars from rich countries.”
Phuketwan says that in particularly the Swedish approach to the chronic problem is problematic.
“Back in 2008 Phuketwan was told by a consular official on Phuket that scores of Swedes choose each year to follow the sun to Thailand and Phuket, even though they do not have the money to support themselves,” Phuketwan states.
“The activities of Ms Strand and a companion, Bjorn Lennart Lundqvist, who lived on charity on Phuket and never paid their bills, and who were repeat visitors to the island, was reported last year. We christened them the Scamdinavians,” Phuketwan says.
“In 2007 alone, the Phuket consulate assisted 109 Swedes who simply ran out of money and requested, to put it diplomatically, ”economic assistance.”
“Even in death, beggars such as the sad-case Swede will be a drain on Thailand’s finances. Ms Strand’s body will stay at Patong Hospital until it is collected.”
“To some extent, it is a coming home for Ms Strand, who often slept at the hospital. Whether she ever makes it back to Sweden for burial now is something for Swedish officials to determine.”
“Although a sad case, Ms Strand’s legacy may eventually prove to be a review of Thailand’s easy entry laws that allow beggars from developed countries to pillage the precious resources of undeveloped countries,” Phuketwan ends it report on Ms Strand’s death.