Thailand Travel Tragedies

Thailand Travel Tragedies

Thailand Travel Tragedies

Thailand Travel Tragedies is a new website being developed by the parents of Sarah Carter who died mysteriously after staying at the Downtown Inn Hotel in Chiang Mai back in February. Originally it was thought that Sarah and her friends had eaten some toxic seaweed at a local night market that made them ill but it soon became clear that there was more to the story.

Sarah Carter’s friends Emma Langlands, 23, and Amanda Eliason, 24 also became ill that day but with milder symptoms. After food poisoning was ruled out disturbing news of other deaths at the same hotel started to come out. A month before Sarah Carter took ill an American, Mariam Soraya Vorster, 33, of Seattle, died under similar circumstances but not at the same hotel. Within days of Sarah Carter’s death an elderly British couple were found to have died together in room 423 of the Downtown Inn Hotel. A week prior a Thai tourist guide died under similar circumstances.

All together there have been 7 deaths attributed to a mysterious illnes in Chiang Mai. Not helping matters much Chiang Mai Governor Pannada Disakul made the announcement before tests had been completed and came to the conclusion that these deaths were all a coincidence. An independent report has come to the conclusion that at least three of the deaths were due to myocarditis, the enlargement of the heart, cause unknown.

There have been quite a few conspiracy theories making the rounds MSG poisoning to puffer fish disguised as salmon. And while the Downtown Inn Hotel figures prominently in the deaths at least one death, Mariam Soraya Vorster, had no connection whatsoever to the hotel.

Food poisoning is most likely the culprit but because of the way the case was handled it’s doubtful we will ever know.

This has been a tragedy for all concerned and gives us all pause for thought about the things we often eat in Thailand but I have to wonder what a Thailand Travel Tragedies website will really bring to the table.

Richard Carter says the website Thailand Travel Tragedies has been set up because of the cover-ups the family has experienced in Thailand.

I can’t begin to know or understand this mans pain of losing a child and while I’m not sure of a coverup, once again Thailand authorities have bungled an investigation that is important, not only to those involved but to Thailand tourism. Time and time again Thailand has dropped the ball in such cases.

While Thailand Travel Tragedies is still being developed you can go to the home page and read the mission statement which reads in part:

This website has been set up to list all occurrences of fatalities or serious illness contracted while visiting Thailand.

This could be a very good thing. A website dedicated to tracking fatalities and serious illnesses in Thailand. In theory over time we may be able to see seasonal trends or work practices in certain parts of the tourism industry that need to be addressed. If they indeed gather information on all fatalities and serious illness this would be a very resourceful site for travelers as well as Thai authorities because it would be independent. Of course this would all depend on how they gather the information and if all cases are independently confirmed. Rumors and hypotheticals wouldn’t be helpful.

Unfortunately the mission statement goes on to say the following:

Its intention is to make all travelers to Thailand more aware of the very real dangers they face in a country which appears a tropical paradise on the surface but in fact has very low health and safety standards and an undercurrent of drug and human rights crimes covered up from exposure to the rest of the world.

This belies the initial statement in total. While bringing up health and safety standards is definitely within the realm of scope for a website that claims to want to document fatalities and serious illnesses in Thailand the drug and human rights statement pretty much tells the tale. This won’t be an impartial website to help travelers to Thailand understand the trends and risks.

I get it, I really do. The mans daughter died and that has to be an unbearable pain and I would want to lash out against the perceived bad guys too.  But, when you start to look at the facts it becomes a whole lot less clear.

Yes, Thailand is perceived by most of us westerners to have low quality health and safety standards…but do they really? I have always assumed so because I come from America that has some of the strictest health and safety standards in the world. That means it’s the safest, right? Wrong. In 1999 The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta compiled statistics from the most complete food poisoning study ever done in America. The study found that over 76 million Americans suffer food poisoning every year and that results in about 5000 deaths.

The agency’s estimate of annual illnesses caused by food poisoning is more than twice as high as that suggested in earlier studies, which put the figure at 30 million. Its estimate of deaths, on the other hand, is much lower than the old figure of 9,000. We aren’t just talking about mom and pop restaurants here either, major corporations have let everything from contaminated peanut butter to salmonella laced lettuce loose on the public knowingly and people have died.

Food poisoning happens every place in the world and people are dying from it as you read this and there is nothing you can do about it. How outbreaks of food poisoning are handled are critical and this is something Thailand has yet to understand. Hopefully the events of the past few moths in Chiang Mai have provided a wake up call to Thai authorities that they need to do more sooner and give the facts instead of trying to put a good face on things to save tourism.

I’m not going to comment on the human rights violations and drug crimes part of the Thailand Travel Tragedies mission statement as they are just ridiculous additions to what could have been a very resourceful site. Have there been human rights violations in Thailand, YES. Have there been drug crimes in Thailand, YES. As there have in every country in the entire world. Human beings are animals and yes kiddies sometimes we eat our own.

I really hope Mr. Carter can see past his recent tragedy to the point where he does develop Thailand Travel Tragedies into what could be potentially a very resourceful site for both travelers and Thai authorities alike. Not only might he change the climate in Thailand as it concerns reporting and handling such incidents but I think it would be a fitting tribute to a daughter he obviously loves greatly and misses dearly. Maybe through her he can help prevent similar incidents from unfolding as they have in Thailand.

One way to prevent any travel disaster is by using a great holiday provider, this will ensure airfare and accomodation are guranteed in terms of availibility and in case of any other disruptions. I normally use as they offer travel insurance also which gives me peace of mind and the only thing i worry about is packing for my next destination.


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28 Responses to Thailand Travel Tragedies
  1. ChuckWow
    March 30, 2011 | 4:37 pm

    I get sick just about every time I go to Thailand.

    The illnesses are contracted on the flight over.

    I wonder if I should put that on their website ?

    • Talen
      March 30, 2011 | 4:56 pm

      Chuck, I am sick again as I write this, tonsillitis again.

      Still there could be good use from such a website especially if done well…might even get Thai authorities do better in their reporting.

  2. Catherine
    March 30, 2011 | 4:54 pm

    Talen, I say good for him. Thailand muffed the investigation [AGAIN] so this website is a father’s chance to fill that void.

    As for his initial stance, who knows how it’ll develop once time goes by. Maybe he’ll go through a cooling period, or just maybe, when he looks even further into the country, he’ll become even more disgusted than he is now. It happens.

    Boy, does it happen.
    Catherine recently posted..Successful Thai Language Learner- Adam BradshawMy Profile

    • Talen
      March 30, 2011 | 5:24 pm

      Cat, no question that Thai authorities screwed the pooch…we’ll have to wait and see how the wind blows on this one.

  3. Mike
    March 30, 2011 | 10:04 pm

    Talen thank you for publishing this link. I shall watch how it develops then I might pass further comment.
    Mike recently posted..Thai New Year Songkran FestivalMy Profile

  4. Amanda
    March 31, 2011 | 10:27 am
  5. Snap
    March 31, 2011 | 8:17 pm

    Talen, firstly, sorry to hear you are sick…once again. You really do need to suck lemons, or something!

    My heart goes out to the family and friends of the victims in question and I hope that their deaths have not been in vain. Good luck to Mr Carter and his endeavours.

  6. tom
    April 1, 2011 | 4:11 pm

    I think that a website which exposes the cover-ups and miscarriages of justice in Thailand will be invaluable. Corruption and wilful incompetence by the Thai authorities can land an unwary or unlucky tourist in a lot of trouble….someone involved in a road accident, for example…especially as the Thai attitude is to blame the farang, even if he is totally innocent and especially if a Thai is at fault, and squeeze as much money out of him or her as possible. Land of Smiles…all the way to the bank!

    Yes, Thailand is a lovely country in many ways, but it is good to be forewarned….and to have your embassy’s number to hand!

  7. Conor
    April 1, 2011 | 6:18 pm

    Thailand has a long history of deceit
    and cover ups; thai’s protect thai’s and themselves are incapable of accepting their faults. False marketing, false protections, and false legal system.
    Myself, I have been cheated out of life assets, bank accts, denied police reports, denied court; my thai wife pirated my son and the thai police sanctioned it; the US Embassy no comment. Thai human rights commission promised and did nothing.
    I am the multiple victim and in Thailand there is no redress and no intention to do it. Thai attitude is ‘not me’ and ‘forget about it’. It is at best a shiny, poison apple. Tourist get damaged, those deceived by the TOT marketing can become seriously damaged or dead.

  8. eric
    April 3, 2011 | 2:18 am

    The day , this damn country will be able to known theirs faults , recognize and take care tourists that mean loss a face to thai administration . this day will be write on theirs buddhist book . but that doesn’t happens at all, because as a lot foreigners explains , and i ever known after 3 years in this country . You cannot bring any knowledges and skills to thai people , which beguins to lies and cheatings from school to university . How could expect some real abilities to known what cooking and healthy diet means for those people , when studies are wasting by theirs stupid and foolish behavior . Feed at restaurant or into a street are same way , none hygiene at all for some pennies much more . i completly agree with Snap just above , my heart goes to theses victims and theirs family .

  9. Martyn
    April 3, 2011 | 3:38 am

    I must say having viewed the home page of the website its statement of intent is very loose to say the least. The young lady’s death is a terrible thing and I do understand the torment her family is going through but I don’t think drugs and human rights crimes fit the equation.

    Like Mike I’ll see how things go from here and hope something positive comes out of the young lady’s tragic death.
    Martyn recently posted..Understanding Buddhism – Getting StartedMy Profile

  10. JAN
    April 4, 2011 | 6:44 pm






    • Talen
      April 4, 2011 | 6:57 pm

      Jan, you might want to unclick your caps key.

      Firstly only 6 of the deaths were of people staying at the Downtown Inn Hotel, the seventh which was very similar was of an American woman not staying at the hotel which suggests that the hotel might not be the culprit but some form of food poisoning. Yes, the Thai authorities mishandled the situation that is for sure.

      As for Tat and being on your own well that’s the case with every country in the world. Travelers have died in your country, my country and every country on the planet and often those situations are just as mishandled because no one wants their tourism to suffer.

  11. Graham
    April 14, 2011 | 6:08 pm

    John Le Fevre has written about the website going live but also throws up an interesting point about the Phi Phi deaths in 2009 – an autopsy conducted six weeks later by the Norwegian government also failed to determine the cause of death.

    Lost smiles in LOS as Thailand travel tragedies website goes live (

  12. bc
    April 14, 2011 | 7:33 pm

    it was the air con, have asked questions while away in c/mai

    • bc
      April 14, 2011 | 7:37 pm

      the locals know but its so well covered up, even shops close by dont even know. I would not stay there, i doubt its the food. oxygen problem i was told in rooms, air con issues. dont stay there guys, cheers

    • Talen
      April 14, 2011 | 7:46 pm

      bc, it couldn’t have been the air con as one of the deaths isn’t even attributed to the Downtown Inn Hotel.

      • BC
        April 16, 2011 | 12:54 pm

        Hey Talen

        Dont know about the last death but have my money on the air con, for the people that stayed in the hotel a. very sad, for the families, and chiang mai, its a great city.

  13. dr.k.conor
    April 15, 2011 | 7:04 pm

    Three issues: in ChiangMai
    [there was another that overbuilt their top floors without permits and added water-tanks ontop of that; the hotel collapsed. Thai Authorities comply with TOT tourism plans and do not talk reality.
    in the Hotel kitchens or from the street, general neglect or no health thoughts; off-the-street is made enmass by a Mkt-service. are cleaned about 1x per yr.
    Thai Police will never report a fault against a $$-boss; the $$-boss does have Bangkok connections; Thai Courts will not act timely nor usefully against either. Thai protecting Thai.
    dr.k.conor recently posted..Thailand – Land of BamboozleMy Profile

  14. brett
    April 18, 2011 | 5:38 pm

    more power to the carter family
    with their website. thailand just wants the tourists money. if you die they will try to sweep it under the carpet. what would happen if 6 tourists died in the same hotel in usa. there would be hell to pay. not in thailand, money shuts everyone up.

    • Talen
      April 18, 2011 | 6:01 pm

      Brett, similar tragedies have happened in the U.S. and they too were misunderstood and swept under the carpet. In the late 80′s gangs in Miami were targeting German tourists for robbery and it was hushed up until they killed a few.

  15. dr.k.conor
    April 18, 2011 | 7:42 pm

    “It happens everywhere” is the most common issue avoiding expression for expats in Thailand. In San Francisco 2 Thai brothers bought a retirement hotel and evicted all 100 elderly residence ignoring their rights. The Chinese community and SF Court said no, compensate them all.
    The 2 Thai’s said,
    “we did not do anything different than what we do in Thailand” The SF Police said, “sure, it was OK.. from where they came from”.
    dr.k.conor recently posted..Thailand – Land of BamboozleMy Profile

    • Talen
      April 18, 2011 | 9:02 pm

      Dr, and you are using the most common generalizations possible…whats your point? All Thai people are bad? All Thai people want to kill falang? Problems exist in every tourism industry in the world the only thing we can do is shed light on them in a constructive fashion.

  16. jim
    May 4, 2011 | 6:55 pm

    I am terribly sorry that you&your wife lost your beloved daughter at all,no matter where,as any parent would be,however,I was disgusted,to read,your statement 26-04-11 in the Dom Post saying Thailand,is a “THIRD WORLD COUNTRY”.I have in total,lived in Thailand for a total of 3.5years,and found the people to be extremely special&many services to be far more advanced than N.Z.My now 13year old son&I have many friends there&his Godfather is Thai.Dont condem Thailand, because of your very sad experience.Experience Thailand fully first&you will learn a lot about life&living&your hurt&wounds will rejuce.Go There&meet the people.Best regards Jim&Santiphab.

  17. Thai Traveler
    May 7, 2011 | 6:58 pm

    i Know Thai justice, i have been to Thailand many times , if you are Thai and have big money you can do Anything. Thailand is so corrupt from top to bottom, Thais are never to blame for anything, they invented a convenient way to not except blame for anything , its called “loss of face”. also you will never win anything in Thailand against a Thai. you can never own property there if you are a falang/farang, Foreigner.It seems deceit and lies are part of Thai culture.Be careful if you holiday in Thailand many people die from falls.mainly from high buildings,Usually the Thai partner is in the vicinity but never sees anything or hears anything and there victim sorry partners always drunk , even though some never drink. I am sorry to hear of your loss but i don’t think you will get justice or closure on your wishes, and by the way i can speak Thai and my wife is Thai so i am talking from experience

  18. Claire
    May 9, 2011 | 4:24 am

    NZ show 60minutes have done a independant investigation on what may have happened to Sarah Carter.
    A potentially lethal toxin which causes symptoms similar to those which New Zealander Sarah Carter had before she died has been found in her Chiang Mai hotel room.

    Thai authorities said the chemical compound was thought to be an insecticide for bed bugs.

    In February, Ms Carter died in hospital from a heart inflammation two days after she and two friends became sick while staying at the Downtown Inn.

    Seven people have died in similar circumstances to Ms Carter – including a Canadian tourist, after using the facilities of the Downtown Inn, an elderly British couple and a Thai tourist guide.

    A United Nations scientist told 60 Minutes there was a strong likelihood that Miss Carter’s death was a result of excessive exposure to the substance, which has been banned for indoor use in other countries.

    Dr Ron McDowall said the toxin causes symptoms identical to those suffered by the tourists who have died.

    • Talen
      May 9, 2011 | 5:38 am

      Claire, it could very well be that the chemical used for bed bugs is the culprit in at least 6 of the cases. The 7th case has to be studied further as she didn’t stay at the same hotel as the others.

  19. dr.k.conor
    May 15, 2011 | 8:58 pm

    The Father of Sarah Carter
    has thus far reached step one for a culprit. The next steps will be all the interference and denial, the evasion, the usual duck and dodge, non-cooperation strategies of the Thai.
    The naive visitors eventually becomes a victim. Compensation is usually 300K baht..if at all. Do not expect an apology: from Hotel, the Police, Chiang Mai Governor or what passes as Thai ‘government’. Thailand does have a forensic authority but the Police do not like her truthful answers.
    New Zealand news and social backlash will make a difference. The culprit being a chemical cannot be easily counter attacked, but the user and the manufacturer can.
    dr.k.conor recently posted..Thailand – Land of BamboozleMy Profile