More Scandinavians die in Thailand

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Photo: Lasse Henriksen

The last 5 years more Swedes and Norwegians have died in Thailand, while the death of Danes seems to be somewhat constant. A rising number of deaths do not seem to correspond with a stagnant number of Scandinavian visitors to Thailand, so the explanation is to be found elsewhere.

Despite a decrease in Swedish visitors in Thailand from 2013 to 2014 the amount of Swedes that died in the country rose with 26 percent. According to Senior Consular Officer at the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok Par Kageby there is a quite obvious answer as to why this is happening. More Scandinavians live in Thailand and these residents are growing older.

“If you go back 5 years then 70 percent of the (Swedish) deaths were accidents and 30% percent were natural. In 2014 70 percent of the deaths were due to natural causes,” he says. According to Par Kageby some of the most common natural death causes are heart attacks and liver cirrhosis.

The total number of Scandinavian deaths in 2014 went up to 270 from 245 deaths in 2013. The last five years Norway like Sweden have experience a steady growth in deaths, from 68 Norwegian deaths in 2010 to 102 in 2014. The relatively new Danish consul Birgit S. Kondrup-Palmquist Carlstedt, were not able to go into details about the historic development when ScandAsia called her, but she assessed that the amount of deceased is somewhat constant. In 2014 a total of 58 Danes died in Thailand, two less than the year before.

“It’s almost, always some sort of disease, last year we experienced one suicide and one fatal traffic accident (among the Danish citizens who died in Thailand red.), the rest died of natural causes,” Consul Birgit S. Kondrup-Palmquist Carlstedt says.

Dead Norwegians are mostly old men
At the Norwegian Embassy their statistics paints a clear image of the average deceased, 64 percent are over 60 years old and some 98 percent are men. 75 percent of them have other insurance policies than travel insurances and according to Brita Ve Magnusson, Counsellor at the Norwegian Embassy’s Consular and Administrative Section, this might indicate that they live in Thailand. So all in all it looks like most of the Norwegians, that die in Thailand are elderly men that resides in the country.

“Last year only 2 of the Norwegians who died in Thailand were women, and none of them died of natural causes,” Brita Ve Magnusson told ScandAsia and added that last year some 12 percent of the Norwegian deaths were caused by drowning- and traffic accidents.

Nobody knows how many Scandinavians live in Thailand
It is not as easy for Par Kageby to figure out how many Swedes live in Thailand. 379 Swedes have registered themselves at the Swedish Embassy, but Par Kageby estimates that the population is 10.000 to 15.000 and currently growing. Brita Ve Magnusson cautiously estimates that around 4000 to 6000 Norwegians live in Thailand one year at a time, but can’t say what the total number of Norwegians who resides here might be.

According to Danish Consul Birgit S. Kondrup-Palmquist Carlstedt, the Danish embassy does not want to make an estimate, because they “do not stand a chance to guess the number, when there is no requirement to register”.

One of the main sources to the estimates is the number of people that goes to the embassies and consulates to apply for a special certificate they need to get a 1 year visas for Thailand. In the light of the amount of deaths Par Kageby thinks the current estimate of Swedish residents in Thailand might even be conservative.

“If you compare how many people die here with the number of certificates we do and see that the number of Swedes that travels to Thailand has gone down the last two years, while the number of our consular cases is still increasing. So it is not connected to how many people comes to Thailand but the number of Swedes who lives here,” Par Kageby says and adds “When you compare the number of people that die with the number of certificates we make, something doesn’t add up.”

In case of an emergency
No one is required to register at their embassies website when they move to Thailand. But in the unlikely event of a disaster it is difficult for the embassies to know where and with what strength they should strike with an effort to find and help people, if they don’t know where and who to search for.

This has been an issue for Sweden before. A slow and inadequate handling of the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand, where more than 500 Swedes died, was considered one of the main reasons for the Foreign Minister Laila Frievald’s 2006 resignation. According to Par Kageby the lack of information will be challenging the Swedish Embassy in case of a new catastrophe.

“If a natural disaster happened somewhere in the northeast of Thailand, we don’t have a clue how many Swedish people live there, if it is 2 or 150 people we are looking for,” Par Kageby says.

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