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27 Ways to Die in Bangkok

With metro police promising one million CCTV cameras and Sukhumbhand saying Bangkok will be drugs-free in 18 months, Bangkok’s safety remains top of the agenda. In 2012, a total number of 31,545 people died in the capital. From road accidents to student shootouts, here are the most likely reasons you won’t live to see tomorrow.

By Monruedee Jansuttipan | Sep 12, 2013

  • 27 Ways to Die in Bangkok
 
Key: Number of Deaths in Bangkok per Year
 
< 50 51 - 250 251 - 500 500 - 1,500  > 1,500
 
 
1. Road Accidents 
 
The most recent Bangkok Metropolitan statistics show that in 2012 some 32,393 road accidents occurred in Bangkok, injuring 13,760 people and claiming 356 lives. While more details aren’t readily available for last year, the Thai Roads Foundation does have stats from the 35,703 injuries sustained in 2011: most involved private cars (12,390) followed by motorcycles (9,954), the majority of whom weren’t wearing helmets. 
 
2. Public Transportation ☠☠
 
The Bureau of Health Policy and Strategy says that 2011 saw a total 185 deaths from public transport accidents in Bangkok. It’s not exactly clear what types of transportation this covers, but regular reports of fatal accidents involving vans surely account for much of this.
 
3. Cancer 
 
Cancer is a huge threat, reported to have killed a total of 58,076 Thais in 2010. In Bangkok alone, some 8,234 deaths by cancer were reported in 2011—perhaps no real surprise given the daily lifestyle of your average Bangkokian visiting a sidewalk Somtam stall for some MSG-laden grilled chicken, a few bottles of beer, a pack or two of cigarettes, all next to a car-congested street.
 
4. Floods  
 
A glance at the history books suggests big floods tend to hit Bangkok every 20-25 years. But now they appear to be happening more frequently—about once every five years—and causing more damage than in the past. The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation reports that at least 815 people died during the floods in 2011, mostly due to drowning and electrocution. Perhaps most worryingly, the BMA’s handbook on how to cope with natural disasters (including floods) won’t be completed and ready for distribution until next March (2014) meaning we’ll be left to our own devices should it flood again before then.
 
5. Rabies 
In Thailand, some 97 percent of rabies cases in humans are caused by dogs, and with all the strays roaming the streets here, the risk could be around every corner. But, thankfully, there’s a super low chance you’ll die due to our furry friends. In recent years, the Bureau of Health Policy and Strategy of Thailand reports that only four people have died from rabid dog bites and only one case happened in Bangkok. 
 
“Rabies is fatal, but, thanks to the vaccines available, very preventable.” 
Dr. Nipon Chinanonwait
 
6. HIV 
According to the 2011 Bureau of Health Policy and Strategy of Thailand report, 313 Bangkokians died from the 3,758 HIV/AIDS related-deaths nationwide. And yet, UNAIDS’ report of the same year said there were actually 23,000 deaths and 490,000 HIV-positive people living in Thailand. Whichever source you go by, the risk of contracting HIV is highest among drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men—with cases among MSM climbing from 11 to 30 percent in less than 10 years.
 
7. Dengue Fever 
2013 has been a mean year for dengue fever. The virus is primarily transmitted through the bite of an Aedes mosquito and people are most at risk of infection after coming in contact with stagnant water after heavy rains. Nationwide, the Disease Control Department has recorded over 109,468 cases of dengue so far this year, triple the number from the same period last year, with 94 deaths reported. We’re not entirely safe here in Bangkok, either, with over 9,500 infections and two deaths so far this year.
 
“Dengue is a major concern every rainy season, but the chances of infection can be greatly lowered if people take care to eliminate mosquito breeding sources, namely stagnant water, around the home.” 
Dr. Nipon Chinanonwait
 
8. Pneumonia 
What with all the smoking and breathing in that polluted air, 2,325 people in Bangkok reportedly died from pneumonia and other lung diseases in 2011. According to the Department of Pollution Control’s director of air quality and noise management, Jongjit Naranathmaeteekul, the level of Particulate Matter 10 (small dust particles) in the air in Bangkok this year continues to exceed the safety standard levels at a staggering 43 percent higher than the number collected last year.
 
9. Leptospirosis 
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the spirochete bacterium often found in rats’ urine. The risk of infection is greater during floods when people are more likely to come into contact with water from the sewers where Bangkok’s rats live. Though curable by injection, fatalities often occur because people mistake it for a normal fever, and leave it too late before going to the hospital. Permanent Secretary for Public Health Doctor Narong Sahamethapath told us that as of August, this year over 1,459 people in Thailand were infected with leptospirosis, 13 of whom died. 
 
10. Robbery  
The latest stats that the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) collected from 88 police stations across Bangkok record some 52,884 criminal cases in the last six months. Though over 80 percent of these are related to drugs, prostitution and gambling, cases of robbery are also on the rise. During this time, there were 5,229 cases of robbery—29 cases per day—with some 299 cases proving fatal. Of these deaths, 194 cases involved robbers attacking proprietors and 96 were homicides. Pol.Maj.Gen. Manit Wongsomboon, the deputy commissioner of the MPB, warned that cases of smartphone theft on the street are also on the rise. Still want to play Candy Crush while walking home?
 
11. Heart Disease  
The Bangkok party lifestyle of drinking and smoking has taken its toll regarding heart-related diseases, with some 1,956 people reported dead of ischaemic heart diseases in 2011. 
 
“As in many big cities, life in Bangkok seems to produce stress as reflected by an increasing number of people who need psychological care. Stress also leads to other diseases like heart problems and high blood pressure.” 
Dr. Nipon Chinanonwait
 
12. Earthquake 
 
OK, OK, there may be no big fault line in Thailand, but that doesn’t mean Bangkokians aren’t at risk of an earthquake disaster. There exist small faults lines in the Western part of the country, namely Ranong, Kanchanaburi, Tak, Maehongson, Chiangmai and Lampang. They are all active. As recently as Aug 20, a 1.9-magnitude earthquake was registered in Lampang. Just because it could barely be felt in Bangkok doesn’t mean it doesn’t pose a threat. Meanwhile, Sagaing Fault, the major fault line in Myanmar, lies just 500 kilometers from Bangkok. Six earthquakes registering more than 7.0 magnitudes have occurred there since 1950. The latest high-magnitude earthquake was on Nov 11, 2012. At 6.8 on the Richter scale, high-rises in Bangkok also felt it. Speaking to BK, Dr. Seri Supparathit, Director of the Climate Change and Disaster Center, advises that you should check whether your building was built before or after 2007. If it’s before, it might not match the new construction regulations regarding earthquake resistance design.  
 
13. Liver Diseases 
 
 It’s time for Bangkok’s drinkers to face the inconvenient truth, as alcohol consumption is cited as one of the key factors in the liver diseases that claimed 745 lives in the capital in 2011.
 
14. Lung Cancer 
 
According to the World Health Organization, in 2011 lung cancer accounted for 2.15 percent of total deaths in Thailand (11,158). By not smoking, the risk is reduced but good health is still not guaranteed, as research by the Director of NIDA Center for Research & Development of Disaster Prevention & Management, Assist. Prof. Dr. Siwatt Pongpiachan, reveals that the carcinogen level from seven air monitor stations in Bangkok is 2.2 times over the safe levels.  
 
15. Fatal Plunges 
 
Don’t get too excited about the panoramic view from Bangkok’s swankiest new rooftop bar or get too intoxicated at your friend’s next balcony party—there’s a chance you could end up like the 74 people who experienced a fatal fall in 2011.
 
16. Tongsia   
 
In 2011, the Health Information Unit, Bureau of Health Policy and Strategy, recorded 58 deaths due to “diarrhea of infectious origin” in our fair city. That sounds pretty low given some of our own near-death experiences with street food and upscale restaurants alike­—not that we plan on giving up living dangerously. When it comes to excuses to miss work, surely tongsia is #1, though.
 
17. Student Shootouts 
 
Stabbings and shootings among technical college students seem to make it onto the front page of newspapers several times a year now. You might think you’re safe if you’re not a student, but last year two bus passengers took a bullet during a shootout between two sparring college students. It could simply be a matter of wrong place at the wrong time.
 
18. Electrocution  
 
During the 2011 floods, Director of Department of Disease Control Pornthep Siriwanarangsan said at least 102 people died from electrocution, adding that no other country in the world would have suffered such a loss. Most of the victims were in Bangkok, in suburbs like Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani. 70 percent of them died on their properties. A look at the stats for 2007-2011 shows that the number of electrocutions have risen steadily. In 2011, some 1,173 people were electrocuted and 120 of them died. The victims ranged from one to 90 years old, with most victims under 25 years of age.
 
19. Tuberculosis (TB) 
   
This infectious disease caused by microbacteria killed musical genius Federick Chopin and author Franz Kafka. In Bangkok in 2011, it caused the death of 442 people from a total of 3,801 reported infections. While the high number of TB deaths is highly linked with HIV infections, its contagiousness is a cause for concern, even on a night out; in 2012, 186 suspected instances of TB bacteria were found at nightlife venues across Bangkok. See a doctor if your cough lasts over two weeks and you start to lose weight.
 
20. Drowning 
 
If you’re an incompetent swimmer boarding one of Bangkok’s transport ferries, we sincerely hope you manage to get on one with the life vests properly installed (if such a thing exists) because you might end up like some of the 187 souls lost to accidental drowning and submersion in Bangkok in 2011.
 
21. Killed by Your Spouse 
 
You might want to take your time just dating someone, as Bangkok ranks top for husband-wife homicide in Thailand, according to Jaree Srisawas from the Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation. Jaree’s research into domestic violence shows 64.97 percent of reported cases involve husbands and wives, while just 15.74 occur between dating lovers. The most reported scenario is of a wife getting killed by her husband.
 
22. Diabetes   
 
In 2011, 493 people in Bangkok were reported to have died from diabetes. Though the mortality rate is relatively low, don’t get too carried away with your next order of cake—diabetes is a major risk factor for many diseases, especially heart disease.
 
 23. Distress   
 
Statistics show that some 136 people committed suicide in Bangkok in 2011, 33 were female and 103 of them men. The main reasons given are distress and mental problems. Tragically, recent stats show that more Thai teenagers are taking their own lives, too. In 2011, suicide was the third most common cause of death for Thai teens (15-19 years old), attributed mostly to problems arising from school and relationships. 
 
24. Stroke 
 
The Bureau of Health Policy and Strategy’s Health Information Unit reports that in 2011, stroke was the cause of death for 2,067 Bangkokians, mostly men. And Health Ministry specialists say Bangkokians are more at risk of suffering a stroke than residents in any other province in the country. This is due to an unhealthy city lifestyle leading to such ailments as high blood pleasure, obesity, diabetes and hyperlipidemia (high blood fat).
 
25. Hepatitis B  
 
Hepatitis B is an infectious inflammatory illness of the liver that can be fatal. According to Associate Professor Dr Theera Piratwisuth, 3-5 percent of Thai people, about one in every 20, suffer from hepatitis B, which is one of the highest rates of infection in the world. Many people remain unaware that it can be prevented by a vaccine, and victims often don’t know they have it as it shows no significant symptoms before it enters the latter stages. In Bangkok, a total of 532 hepatitis cases were reported in 2011, resulting in 231 deaths.
 
26. Fire 
 
A total 4,036 fire incidents were recorded in Bangkok last year with 29 people reported dead from exposure to smoke, fire and flames. The next time you buy a house; consider one with a fire station nearby because with Bangkok’s traffic it might take firefighters some time to come to your rescue.
 
27. Rape 
 
The Metropolitan Police Bureau reports that over the past six months there were 1,757 cases of sexual attacks Bangkok-wide and 137 of these cases were rapes. There is no official data on how many of the victims died from their assaults.

 

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