Making sense or nonsense of foreigner suicides in Pattaya

Sawangboriboon volunteer Manoon Jaitong has been collecting dead bodies in Pattaya for more than 20 years.

PATTAYA, Thailand – The start of this month saw five falls from Pattaya condominium balconies in as many days. All were non-Thais, thus boosting the sick joke about the Pattaya Flying Club being back in business. Of course, the fact that there have been no cases since has been ignored, a good example of deviancy amplification. That’s the well-attested habit of the mainstream and social media to create moral panics to boost sales or encourage click bait.

Hard evidence is very thin on the ground. The World Health Organization publishes international data of sorts, but the statistics apparently reflect the number of Thai suicides only: about 10 percent of all adult deaths but considerably lower than the equivalent case of South Korea or India. An internet review of known foreigner cases in Pattaya during the first six months of 2024 suggests a total of 36, mostly condominium leaps. Pattaya police lieutenant Aniruj Jeroh agrees that approximate total but adds that suicides, accidents and murders can be hard to disentangle.

There are no regular governmental or embassy statistics in support. The British then-honorary consul in Pattaya in 2009 found that 295 Brits had died in the whole of Thailand, the vast majority by lifestyle diseases such as cancer or heart attacks. Specifically in Pattaya, he found 6 British suicides for the whole of that year with fatal motorbike accidents coming in just behind at 5 mortalities. At the time, it’s likely that there were many more British nationals in Thailand than there are now, according to immigration arrival reports which surface now and again.

The condominium leap syndrome in Pattaya has attracted much speculation as it appears to be mainly be a farang choice. It is not only a Pattaya phenomenon as Spanish authorities keep a tab with their own Balearic Balcony League. Of course, some jumps may be accidental and the lowness of Pattaya unit walls or safety barriers has often been stressed. However, only one known case – an American in 2018 – has ever been definitively shown to be accidental and was proved by video footage of a wild party in progress with all the expected tomfoolery.

Some commentators suggest that murder or defenestration may be at play in some sudden falls. There appear to be no known cases in Thailand which have progressed successfully through the courts, although police are reluctant to make accusations without definitive proof because aggrieved parties could later sue them for false arrest. Interestingly, the most popular methods of suicide amongst Thais are poison and hanging. In America, the most popular option by far is shooting by gun which is hardly surprising given the easy access to firearms.

So is the suicide rate by foreigners out of control in Pattaya? Hardly and about 95 percent are men not women. Pattaya is a small city by international standards, but the huge tourist market means there may as many as one million people present here on any one night in the general area. The new factor is the increasing number of suicides from “new” countries such as China (3 suicide cases so far in 2024) and Russia (also 3 cases). A future article will try to demonstrate why foreigners in Pattaya commit suicide. The evidence is fragmentary but revealing.