The Swedish Embassy rejects accusations that it does nothing to help Swedes in Thailand who are unable to support themselves.
“It is simply not true that we don’t do anything, but we can’t force anyone to do something against their own will,” they say.
Death of a Swedish beggar
This weekend, the body of a 60 year old woman was found on Phuket. Her name was Gabriella Rose-Marie Strand and she had over the years become a familiar face in the streets of tourist town Patong. A Swedish social case, she was often seen begging for food and sleeping wherever possible.
At the Swedish embassy in Bangkok, they are very familiar with Gabriella Strand and her tragic death. Even before she died, they had dealt with her on several occasions, and they saw the unfortunate conditions, under which she lived, as regrettable.
A regular customer
Pär Kågeby, Senior Consular Officer at the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok has been in contact with Ms. Strand many times: at the Immigration Detention Centre when she was detained after her visa expired and when she was hospitalized over a three week period. He went there every day to bring her food.
In response to the criticism of the Embassy (read the story here), Pär Kågeby says that neither the embassy nor the Swedish government is responsible for the economic situation of individual Swedes living in Thailand, but they do try to help wherever they can. The problem with people like Ms. Strand, however, is that they do not want to be helped.
“Ms. Strand got herself into trouble over and over again. Her passing away is the seventh time we are working on her case,” Pär Kågeby says and adds that the embassy tried to send her home four or five times but without any luck.
“She was unwilling to leave, and then there is not much for us to do. We can’t handcuff people and force them to leave the country.”
A large part of the work done at the Embassy consists of dealing with people like Gabriella Strand who are unable to support themselves in Thailand, and Pär Kågeby confirms that there are quite a few of them.
“Every year, we get about 40-50 people like that who come to Thailand and then run out of money. They choose not to use their return ticket and they decide to stay here. We do what we can to help these people. We contact their families if they have any and social security in Sweden to try and get the money for them to go home.”
She will be buried
Another large part of their work is dealing with deceased Swedes. About 100 Swedes die in Thailand every year, and on Saturday, Gabriella Rose-Marie Strand became one of them. As for her body, it will have to remain at Patong Hospital for a while still, but not indefinitely.
“We are trying to contact her family in Sweden, if she has one, and then we are going to talk to her boyfriend whom she lived with to see what he wants, but she is probably going to have a local funeral,” Pär Kågeby concludes.