Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thailand: Update--Death Toll Rises in Ferry Sinking, PM Urges End to Maritime Accidents

According to, during her fact-finding mission in the eastern region, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, has instructed local officials to tighten safety laws to better protect tourists, after a ferry accident killed six tourists near Pattaya.

According to, yet another Russian passenger died recently from the vessel sinking, bring the death toll to seven. 

Yingluck inspected Bali Hi pier in South Pattaya where she was briefed by authorities about the accident. Provincial authorities were told to speed up investigations into the accident and to devise plans to prevent future maritime disasters.

In the wake of the fatal ferry accident on November 3, Chon Buri Governor Komson Ekachai has previously demanded the Marine Department and Pattaya City boost water-transport safety and put security guards on duty on Koh Lan island around the clock.

COMMENT: Safety drills have also been conducted where members of the public are taught how to survive a sinking boat or ferry. Seven people died after the overcrowded tourist ferry they were traveling on capsized near Pattaya. 

The double-decker ferry, which was overcrowded, capsized last week between Pattaya and Koh Lan. The number of total passengers on board was estimated to be over 100. 

The "captain" of the ferry was high on drugs at the time the vessel capsized and authorized the ferry to be overcrowded for the sake of profit. 

When the vessel capsized, passengers scrambled to the upper deck causing the ferry to sink. There were insufficient life-jackets; many passengers could not swim.

Pattaya, known for its racy nightlife, is popular with Chinese and Russians on package holidays. The Russian Embassy in Bangkok said that at least half of the passengers on the overloaded ferry were Russian tourists.

Thailand has been urged to improve its safety standards amid a series of accidents involving tourists for decades, yet little has changed with a large number of tourists and travelers going home in a coffin, rather than in a comfortable airline seat.

In the Thai language there is an often-used term, "Mai Pen Rai," which essentially means "don't worry about it." Unfortunately,  this terms permeates throughout all modes of transportation in Thailand to the point that the death toll among foreigners has only risen.

Despite having all of the technology to transport tourists and residents safely, profit is the underlying motive in Thailand, influenced heavily by the Chinese, where making money is seemingly more important than life-safety.

Last month, an Indian woman celebrating her wedding anniversary was killed in a parasailing accident in Pattaya after her parasail failed to launch. In August, two Chinese tourists were killed traveling between Pattaya and Lan Island when their speedboat crashed. 

Having lived and worked in Thailand for many years, and having returned to contemporary Thailand, I have seen no change in the emphasis on keeping passengers safe on all modes of transportation. Today's Thailand can only be called a negligent government, although tourism brochures call it "The Land of Smiles." 

A final note. According to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Last year 111 Aussies died in Thailand alone, accounting for the largest number of deaths in a single country. Other nations where Australians died include the Philippines, 68, Greece, 50, and Indonesia 48 with 904 Aussies passing away while abroad in all nations.