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Reaching out for that helping hand

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Suicide rates have increased 60 per cent worldwide over the past 45 years, according to the World Health Organization. Phuket is not immune, but there is help available for those in need. The Phuket Gazette’s Leslie Porterfield reports.

PHUKET: KHEMMANIT Jantharaapa was 38 years old when she walked onto Thao Thepkrasattri Bridge in tears on April 24. She took off her shoes and placed them next to her bag before jumping over the side.

A frantic effort by locals led to her being fished from the waters. Despite rescue worker’s efforts, Ms Khemmanit was pronounced dead on arrival at Thalang Hospital.

“She was crying and asked me to take her to the bridge to meet her friend. I said I couldn’t, as I had other errands to run, so she decided to walk alone,” local resident Arun Wanayao said.

“I went back to see her, but I couldn’t find her. I went looking for her and rode my motorbike to the area under the bridge – and I saw her jump,” he said.

In March an American man in Baan Manik, distraught after an argument with his girlfriend, tried to kill himself by cutting his throat.

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It can be scary when a friend is thinking about suicide. Click here to enlarge image.
He called his girlfriend to tell her what he was doing, and she notified police.

He was taken to the hospital, where he refused the stitches that doctors recommended and asked to be released.

On December 31, a 21-year-old Australian admitted to Patong Hospital with anxiety and depression also refused treatment. He left the hospital and later that day jumped from his ninth-floor hotel room to his death.

The Gazette reported on 17 possible suicide attemptsfrom March 2012 to February 2013. Eleven attempts were successful, or in the mental health parlance, completed.

Six of those who tried to take their lives were westerners – three tourists and three expats – nine were Thai, one was Burmese and one was a Filipina. Only one was a woman.

Worldwide, more men than women commit suicide, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO).

MOTIVES

Love problems were cited as possible motives in nine of the cases reported by the Gazette; one was pinned to financial problems; in three cases the individuals involved were described as mentally unstable; and in four cases the motives were unclear from reports.

Bruce Stanley, the American warden who has been helping visitors and expats in Phuket for over 20 years, believes destitution is often the cause of expat suicides in Phuket.

“People run out of money and can’t go home,” Mr Stanley told the Gazette.

“A few years ago, one man told me he couldn’t go home because he was wanted for something. Another fellow didn’t have any family. You get a lot of people who don’t have a safety net,” he said.

SUICIDE RATES
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Who is at risk? Click here to enlarge image.
“The Phuket Public Health Chief, Dr Bancha Kankong, says the suicide rate in Phuket – 6.1 per 100,000 people – is not critical. Lamphun has the highest rate, according to the Thai Department of Mental Health’s website, at 15.58 per 100,000.

The WHO figure for Thailand as a whole was 7.8 per 100,000 in 2002.

In contrast, the US rate was 11 per 100,000 in 2005, in the UK it was 6.9 (2009), in Australia, 8.2. Russia and S. Korea have two of the highest rates in the world, at 30 for Russia (2006) and 31 for South Korea (2009).

It should be kept in mind that the WHO says the “reliability of suicide certification and reporting is in great need of improvement.”

GETTING HELP

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Who can help? Click here to enlarge image.
“People don’t know there’s help for them,” Mr Stanley explained to the Gazette.

“Consuls will all help people. One of the ways they can help is by contacting next of kin. The family often will fly over here if they have the resources,” he said.

As for medical treatment on Phuket, Mr Stanley said that it’s difficult to get prescriptions for drugs to treat psychotic and bipolar disorders in Thailand.

“In America we have drugs like Prozac, but here it’s a lot more challenging to get them. If people are psychotic or bipolar, they can’t just go in to the doctor and get them – they have to go through a process. And when you’re psychologically stressed, you don’t have the patience to go through it.

Hospitals [in Phuket] are often not helpful. There was a suicidal fellow a couple of years ago who got checked into a hospital under observation, and they put him on the top floor in a room with a balcony, and as soon as the nurse left the room he jumped ,” he said.

Mr Stanley explained that he sends people to the International Office at Vachira Hospital.

“There’s a woman there named Methevee Maneesri. She can get all kinds of services for people who are suicidal, and for virtually no fee,” Mr Stanley said.

There’s a psychiatric hospital in Surat Thani [Suan Saranrom Hospital] where they send people who are suicidal, and they’re given free treatment,” he added.

Officials at the Phuket Public Health Office also recommended contacting Vachira Hospital.

“People in need can also call the tourist police,” Claude de Crissey, a tourist police volunteer said.

Mr de Crissey strongly recommends coming to Thailand with insurance because medical expenses can quickly pile up, causing serious financial issues which can exacerbate other problems.

“I think the Thai government should require it,” he said. “It’s so important. If a visitor doesn’t have it, they could be asked to sign a contract on arrival.”

If people have psychological problems and don’t have insurance to pay for treatment, their condition can become dangerous, he said.

Martin Carpenter, the UK Honorary Consul, agreed and strongly suggested having a Phuket branch of Samaritans – an organization of volunteers available to discuss and help callers with any issue, not just suicide.

The Bangkok office of Samaritans confirmed that they offer both telephone and email services in Thai, English and occasionally in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Additional reporting by Saran MItrarat.

— Leslie Porterfield

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Crime

2 shot dead at Phuket Bus Terminal Saturday night

The Thaiger

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2 shot dead at Phuket Bus Terminal Saturday night | The Thaiger
PHoTO: Nashaplaneta.net

Police say 2 men were gunned down at the Phuket Bus Terminal by a colleague at the terminal along the stretch of Thepkasattri road heading into Phuket Town last night. The incident happened at about 10:15pm with the local police chief arriving along with medical staff from Vachira Hospital shortly after the incident.

60 year old Wian Iadchuthong, the alleged gunman, was waiting to surrender at the scene when police arrived. Police say Wian appeared to be drunk and told them he had a serious argument with the 2 men and decided to take their lives with the gun. Police say they found 50 year old Yod Sae Lee lying on the ground in front of a taxi service stand, badly wounded. He was given CPR before being rushed to Vachira Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

54 year old Prakob Chuthong was also found lying dead by the counter of a 24 hour car park service kiosk. Police say he had been shot 2 times, once in the left side of his head and once in his left rib cage, according to Bangkok Post.

Witnesses say before the shooting, Wian was quietly drinking alone. But after getting drunk, he walked to the counter of the car park service kiosk and allegedly fired 2 shots from a 9mm gun at point-blank range, killing Prakob instantly. Wian then ran towards Yod, who was sitting in front of the taxi service stand. Yod saw Wian coming at him with the gun and he ran away to 1 side of the terminal building, only to be intercepted by Wian who allegedly fired 5 shots. Yod was hit 1 time in the head, 2 times in the torso and 2 times in the legs. Yod was also rushed to Vachira Hospital where he later died.

An initial police investigation found that the 3 were close colleagues at the workplace, but often engaged in heated fights over motorcycle taxi and taxi services at the bus terminal.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Tourism

Phuket lifts mandatory quarantine restrictions for ‘high risk’ arrivals. But were they ever applied?

The Thaiger

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Phuket lifts mandatory quarantine restrictions for ‘high risk’ arrivals. But were they ever applied? | The Thaiger

Culminating 2 weeks of mass confusion over the apparent mandatory self-quarantine for arrivals to Phuket from Bangkok and other high risk provinces, Phuket’s provincial communicable disease committee has agreed to lift the mandatory 14 day quarantine “to help boost the local economy hit by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

But for the vast majority of arrivals from Bangkok (DMK and BKK) to Phuket there wasn’t even any mention of quarantine. Over the past 2 weeks, since Phuket’s Governor released a 3 page announcement about new restrictions for the island, people have mostly been coming and going as usual. The only additional impediments were all arrivees having to download and fill in the Mor Chana app and registering with gophuget.com.

In 2 weeks not a single person has reported to The Thaiger that they had been forced to self-quarantine. Last night, when checking in at Suvarnabhumi airport for a Thai VietJet flight to Phuket, the person at the Check-In counter told the passenger (we’ll call them Mic to protect their identity) they would have to serve 14 days in state quarantine upon arrival in Phuket. Mic, surprised, asked for some sort of confirmation of this from airline management or information from the Phuket Provisional officials. None was forthcoming. Nothing more was said or communicated to the passengers.

When the plane landed in Phuket officials checked that passengers had completed the Mor Chana app and scanned their phones after they’d completed the gophuget.com registration. And that was it. No mention of quarantine.

The situation has been repeated by other Thaiger staff over the past 2 weeks as well, but without any mention of quarantine during the check-in or boarding procedures with various airlines. In all cases they flew from Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang airports.

Phuket’s Governor Narong Woonciew says the decision to ease the Covid-19 restrictions for visitors followed calls from the business community seeking to lure visitors to Phuket. (The Thaiger wonders if any of these officials had actually travelled over the past 2 weeks)

Local businesses met with provincial authorities on Friday proposing an end to the mandatory quarantine period “for people travelling from certain high-risk areas” in the hope of “stimulating the tourism industry”. The proposal was less about stimulating and more about raising the industry from its current flatline.

But whatever mandatory quarantine they were asking to be lifted appears to be have been, at best, loosely applied anyway.

Phuket has has a triple hit. The first when the borders were closed in April and the international airport closed. The second was when December arrived, the start of the busy tourist high-season. The third was the new restrictions added 2 weeks ago in response to the 2nd wave of clusters that started on December 20, tripling the total number of Covid infections in the country in just over a month.

According to Bangkok Post, Sarayuth Mallum, president of the Phuket travel industry council, says… “strict disease control measures remain necessary to protect local people and tourists from contracting the virus”.

Somehow, the mandatory quarantine requirement instructions never reached the airport officials. But, for now anyway, the “restrictions” have been lifted anyway. What was you experience arriving in Phuket over the past week? Were you asked to conduct a mandatory 14 day self-quarantine?

In the meantime the struggling domestic airlines have been forced to massively cancel or reschedule flights. Over the past 2 days most airlines only had 1 or 2 flights to and from Phuket and Bangkok, down from the 4 – 10 daily flights some airlines were offering.

More about the Mor Chana App here…

More about the direct effects on the island of Phuket…

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Phuket national park officer fired over peeping Tom incident

The Thaiger

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Phuket national park officer fired over peeping Tom incident | The Thaiger

A national park officer has been fired after being accused of spying on a woman in the public toilet on January 17 at Phuket’s Sirinath National Park. 28 year old Abdulrama Mahaderi, was accused by a woman named Sopita and her boyfriend Panupong Rungrueng of climbing a wall that separates the men’s and women’s sections of the toilet at Nai Yang beach in order to look at Sopita. Abdulrama allegedly also had his mobile phone in his hand.

Sirinath National Park Chief Pramote Kaewnam confirmed that an investigative committee had spoken to witnesses and determined that Abdulrama was guilty of “misbehaviour and improper actions.”

Pramote confirmed that Abdulrama’s employment contract was then terminated, effective last Wednesday, 3 days after the incident allegedly took place. On its Facebook page, the Sirinath National Park made a post about the incident.

“It has caused disgrace to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and affected the image of the overall department.”

Sura Lertthaisong of Sakhu Police confirmed that Abdulrama would be facing charges and that he was currently investigating whether a charge of “bullying in public” under Section 397 of the Criminal Code would be appropriate.

Abdulrama had previously posted on the official Sirinath National Park Facebook page that his understanding was that no charges would be pursued by Sopita and Panupong.

“The tourists told me that they did not want to press charges. They just told me that they did not want me to do anything like this again.”

But after Panupong posted a photo of Abdulrama, detailing his alleged indiscretion on social media, others came forward with similar accusations.

“One group of women said that they were also spied on by this man on the toilet wall 2 months ago, but they did not report it and did not press charges – and the truth faded away as if nothing ever happened.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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