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Special Report: Caring for the unknown dead of Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Caring for the unknown dead of Phuket | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The unidentified body of a Caucasian male, recovered from the sea south of Phuket at the beginning of November, was finally laid to rest on December 14.

The red-haired foreigner, dressed only in a black singlet and gray shorts, was discovered by the crew of Thai fishing boat Sor Naja as it sailed between Racha Yai Island and Koh Hei.

Chalong Police together with Phuket Ruamjai Foundation rescue workers rendezvoused with the Sor Naja to recover the body from the sea. At the time, rescue workers estimated that the man might have been about 45 years old. Showing no obvious signs of injury, they speculated that he probably drowned.

Once on dry land, “Red Hair” was transferred to the morgue at Vachira Phuket Hospital. Meanwhile, police started the often-difficult task of ascertaining his identify, the first step toward contacting relatives who might then arrive and claim the body.

In this case, putting a name to the deceased was difficult from the start as the corpse was found without any identification whatsoever. A review of missing persons reports turned up nothing, and after a month and a half in the mortuary it was determined that all lines of inquiry were exhausted. At this point, case officer Nitikorn Rawang of the Chalong Police authorized the release of the body to Phuket Kusoldharm Foundation workers for burial.

With no known relatives or next of kin to prepare Red Hair for his final journey, Kusoldharm Foundation staff performed a small funeral ceremony before interring his remains at Mai Khao Cemetery.

Religious beliefs aside, for many of us there is an underlying fear of what will happen to our mortal remains after we pass away. Are they to lie undiscovered until the smell of decay alerts a neighbor? And when finally discovered, will every passerby stop and gawk as the body is stripped and placed in a black rubber bag. Many people wonder if their remains will be treated with respect.

Fortunately, the vast majority of visitors and residents to Phuket are known to others who can help identify them.

The death of a tourist can turn a nice holiday into a sad task indeed for a fellow traveler or family member who has to make final arrangements.

In the case of an expat, it is most often the local community that steps in to help, with individuals and sometimes entire groups often going far beyond the call of duty to provide their loved one with a fitting send-off. Even a lone tourist, if identified, usually has the services of an honorary consul to offer advice to relatives concerning repatriation of the body.

But what of Red Hair and other “unknowns” who die in Phuket? How are their remains dealt with? In almost every case they will ultimately find their way to the Vachira Phuket Hospital morgue.

The Vachira morgue can store up to14 bodies at any one time. The bodies of Thai nationals are kept for a week. More often than not, relatives will claim the body within that time. With the bodies of foreign nationals, the holding period may be up to one month.

Although not equipped to conduct full autopsies, Vachira staff will conduct a post-mortem examination if requested by police. Often this also involves taking DNA samples to assist in the identification process. In cases where the police require a full autopsy to be carried out, the bodies are sent to Police Region 8 Headquarters in Surat Thani.

If a patient has died in hospital, relatives are usually easy to contact and hospital staff can complete this on their own. Unidentified bodies can be problematic, however. The issue faced by hospital authorities on how to dispose of such remains is a matter of primacy.

In circumstances where bodies have been brought in by law enforcement officers, the police have the responsibility for contacting relatives, or, in the case of foreigners, the relevant diplomatic mission. Bodies, even if they were patients, are considered “unclaimed” if no relatives can be found.

Vachira Hospital keeps a close eye on the number of unidentified bodies in storage at the mortuary. Once they have several bodies coming to the end of the typical holding period, staff contact the Kusoldharm Foundation to arrange for collection and burial. This is not only for unidentified bodies, but also those that relatives have decided, for whatever reason, to leave with the hospital.

So what happens when the hospital and police decide the time has come for the body to be disposed of? The Kusoldharm Foundation doesn’t maintain a fixed collection schedule, but they will respond to requests from any island hospital. The bodies that the Kusoldharm claim are taken to the Mai Khao Cemetery, near the Phuket Tsunami Wall of Remembrance, for burial.

All the graves are clearly numbered so the bodies can later be identified if a relative comes forward to claim one.
Kusoldharm workers place the coffins in proper graves to prevent them being disturbed by wild animals or the elements. The graves are laid out in lines, each numbered to identify the body should anyone come forward at a later date to claim a relative. It is a duty that the Kusoldharm workers perform with dignity and respect.

“We have a small ceremony during which we follow the Chinese rituals and burn silver and gold paper at the grave site,” Kusoldharm worker Kritsada Suwannaroj told the Phuket Gazette.

“In my two years of experience, I have never seen anyone come to claim a buried body. Although once, relatives did come to see us. We were about to exhume the body, but they didn’t think they could bear to see it. So we left it in situ and the relatives had a ceremony there at the grave,” said Mr Kritsada.

Eventually the graveyard will fill to capacity. When a thousand unclaimed bodies have amassed, the Kusoldharm will exhume them en masse and hold a ceremony before cremating all of the remains, as it has done at other graveyards many times before. After that, new corpses will be buried in the now-vacant graveyard, starting with grave site number one.

So Red Hair will be remembered, even if who he was, where he came from or how he died is never known. So Rest in Peace, Red Hair.

— Chutharat Plerin

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

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Property

Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real?

The Thaiger

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Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real? | The Thaiger

If you’re looking to invest in overseas property, search the market and it’s not unusual to find condos for sale with guaranteed rental returns of 40%, and some even higher. Yes, it DOES seems too good to be true, but the offers are out there and the packages often come with free legal fees and other such benefits. Clearly, before diving in, you need to seek some expert and professional advice.

So, what is the debate about? And what questions should you ask prior to investing?

Guaranteed rental returns are obviously enticing for investors and purchasers alike, with standard net returns usually being advertised below the 10% mark.

In the opinion of many, this is not a cheap marketing trick. Yes, it does have ‘marketing power’ and it might just be the additional financial package that helps developers and agents clinch the deal. But for the investors, they genuinely are guaranteed a minimum return on their investment. Surely that’s positive. It eases the concerns of investors and keeps the market buoyant. And why wouldn’t buyers prefer to go with the property that guarantees this return, over the property that does not?

Other experts are not so sure. While acknowledging that a rental guarantee clearly offers agents and developers an advantage in marketing and selling, there are voices within the industry that urge caution. There’s a suspicion that developments that come with a guarantee may be overpriced and that the developers may have factored the cost of the guarantee into the actual price of the property that is being offered.

Those that hold this negative opinion about guarantees suggest that a better strategy for any investor might be to really understand the market in which the property is being offered, aim to get the lowest price possible, do the deal and then organise the letting independently.

Other cautious voices wonder if investors aren’t being tantalised with a vision of unrealistic long-term returns. The question that is asked is what happens when the guaranteed period ends? It’s not unknown for the guaranteed period to expire, and for the investor to suddenly realise that the true rental value of the property is much lower than they believed. Rental incomes suddenly drop, and they suddenly realise that they have overpaid into the wrong investment.

But still, many deny that developers overprice properties when offering guarantees. And no matter what, it’s clear that a rental guarantee is important for certain investors who need the security that it offers. And genuinely, it appears that there are some good guarantees out there on the market. So what to do?

The trick is to apply common sense and due diligence to the situation and examine the legal, commercial and financial strength of the guarantee and the market in which it is being offered. Here are some questions worth considering:

Legally, how is the guarantee structured?

Is it underwritten with a contract in which legal recourse is an option, should you not receive the income that is guaranteed? This is clearly important.

Commercially, is the guaranteed rental figure in-line with the rental market in which the property is situated? Basically, are the developers offering you more rental income than is actually achievable in the current market? If they are offering you more, then once the guaranteed period expires, you’ll probably see your returns on investment drop.

Financially, how does the guarantee work?

Is the guaranteed return dependent upon the commercial success of the project?

Some guarantees are based on projected annual revenues and are subject to these revenues being achieved. In other words, if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, the full guaranteed amounts might not be paid to the purchaser.

In addition to this, some guarantees may also come with the proviso that the amount being ‘guaranteed’ is ‘subject to the competency of’ the management of the complex. This may seem vague, but it’s possible that if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, then the blame for this failure is going to be put solely on the management company.

The vagueness of such a ‘competency’ proviso might also be used to cover all manner of issues. For example, is it possible that forecasted rental revenues might fail to materialise, not because of the bad management of a complex, but because the original forecasts were set too high? It might be easy to blame all manner of poor results on the incompetence of how an apartment complex is managed and to do this with no liability.

With this in mind, once again, it’s very important to look at the rental market in which the property is located, and then ask: are the projected annual revenues realistic in the current market? And of course, you will have to do some research on the developers.

Do the developers have a track record of successfully managing properties, renting them out and ensuring that incomes are generated?

If the answer to this is ‘no’, how then will they be able to generate the income that they are guaranteeing? This may be a sign that the property price has been ‘artificially’ increased to cover any foreseen shortfall in future income.

All-in-all, there’s a lot to consider. Guaranteed rental returns do offer investors a level of security, and it is natural for people to feel compelled to buy into them, and yes, there are some good offers on the market. But it’s worth remembering that in the right location, you’ll always be able to rent out a property.

As we always recommend at The Thaiger, do your homework!

To find thousands of available rental properties in Thailand, click HERE.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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