60 Minutes New Zealand – Will The Thai Authorities Come Clean?

A programme by  60 Minutes in New Zealand last night suggested that the victims who died in the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai earlier this year died from exposure to chlorpyrifos which is essentially a poison used to kill bed bugs.

Chlorpyrifos is banned in many countries and in any case should only be used under very controlled circumstances.

The programme makers found traces of it, despite extensive cleaning, three months after the deaths.

Meanwhile on the programme the Governor of Chiang Mai says he still believes the deaths were a co-incidence, and the Medical Chief of the city says he suspects a chemical, but will not say what, and will not name the owner of the hotel.

If what ’60 Minutes’ believes is true then of course it’s nothing short of a national scandal. The whole affair has the terrible odour of a cover-up. What is further it shows how weak are the missions of Canada, the United States, and France, all of whom had nationals in Chiang Mai, in actually looking after their nationals in getting information from the Thai government.

The father of 23-yr-old Sarah Carter seems to have no doubt. There was a cover-up. Moreover Richard Carter believes that the authorities in Chiang Mai tried to hide things from ’60 Minutes’. He told the New Zealand Herald:

 “I think they’ve proven that they really don’t have an interest in resolving the issue, calling it a coincidence for a start, and also to have systematically gone around and covered up as much of the evidence as they possibly could when they had wind that TV3 were about to do an investigation.

 “There have been quite a number of incidents where the reaction from the Thai authorities is to cover things up to save their own tourism industry, without taking the long-term view of resolving these problems and making the country safer for all visitors, as well as their own people.”

 The Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai is owned by a former Mayor.  I was part and parcel of exposing the deaths in the hotel and providing the links.

Of course I knew from the beginning that the local press in Chiang Mai did not want to attend to this story with a critical eye because I was told by a local journalist there, who had been given misinformation,  that he was in a ‘no-go’ area.

Thailand could have done itself a big favour by being open and transparent from day one.  Statements that the deaths were a ‘co-incidence’ still being repeated are not helpful.

There is a part of me that says that I hope ’60 Minutes’ is wrong.  But they walked into the hotel as the management continued the scrubbing of all rooms on the fifth floor.

But I have done work for both the US 60 Minutes and the Australian ’60 Minutes’ and a producer from NZ TV’s ’60 Minutes’ was in touch with me last week (although there was little I could personally do to help)  Programmes in the ’60 Minutes’ stable do tend to err on the side of caution. 

I would like to see the Chiang Mai authorities come clean.  My experience in Thailand suggests that doctors and professional scientists do not cover-up,  but sometimes their hands are tied.

And as it transpires the programme shows that the medical people in Chiang Mai are not at fault and were helpful in making the programme. It is very difficult to find a trace of chlorpyrifos in a human more than 24 hours after that person is infected.

But an investigation should have discovered what the hotel owner was spraying in his rooms a long time ago.

It seems to late now for a bit of face-saving. This story has gone viral and I am getting request for copy and pictures from several countries.

 Link to New Zealand Herald 

15 thoughts on “60 Minutes New Zealand – Will The Thai Authorities Come Clean?

  1. Andrew

    Please give my sympathy to Sarah's parents.
    We were at the Hotel the day the first Thai Tour Guide died.
    We were talking to one of the front counter supervisors and the Hotel manager waived us to go to our room 505 which is behind the lift.
    We thought that was unusual, but when we got home we found all this out about the deaths.
    I believe we were in the way as they were trying to get the body down stairs.
    We left to go to Chiang Rai the day the NZ girls arrived at the Hotel.
    My wife was getting a bad sinus infection, she believed this was possibly caused by the chemical fumes on the 5th floor.
    Hopefully we will find out soon the USA & Japan sample results.

  2. It's up to people outside Thailand to put pressure on authorities to clean up their act,through media reports. What's wrong with the western world? Thailand is not a tourist friendly place anymore, it is a health risk, and full of scams, countries should be held accountable for these deaths for not warning their citizens!!

  3. Bangkok international siezed and closed for 8 days stranding more than 100,000 foreign nationals, army sharp shooters firing live rounds and killing civilians yet not a single person convicted of any crime as yet. Sadly I doubt pressure from anyone except the Thai population at large will change the status quo that allows certain members and elemements of Thai society to remain free from responsibility for their actions.

  4. this must be reported in the world press. in thailand a farang's life and death have the value of a soi dog. that is the sad truth and a fact. thai authorities are more concerned about three young girls dancing topless in public than this story. the owner must be held accountable. if not in thai court then in the worlds public opinion. regardless of his power and connections. If it were thai citizens who died the families would be paid off, as is the custom when hi-sos are involved in anything. the truth about how the thai authorities regard their face over the lives of innocent people is criminal and should be exposed. this is a daily occurrence here. the thai press are just as guilty in the conspiricy to protect these people by their silence. there is no truth in thailand,just business as usual.

  5. The presence of chlorpyrifos can be detected in the urine. If it is right that the victims died from this chemical then any resident who stayed in the hotel during the relevant period would have come into contact too and this would be evident from tests. Were these done?
    My understanding from the material available is that deaths from acute poisoning are rare. Whoever sprayed the chemical, if that is indeed the culprit, would surely have been affected too. The chemical is in fact everywhere in the world but only labelled by the WHO as moderately hazardous.
    Is someone trying to fit the perp to the crime here? It seems a neat answer but quite implausible to me.

  6. anyone have a link to download the 60 minutes NZ show….Diwana does not have it.

    Click on the first time 60 mins is mentioned in the story

  7. Now come on people out there, this is not just about farangs being 'ignored' or 'mistreated'. Can you remember just over 2 years ago the big fire at the 'Santika pub'in Ekamai Bangkok? There were possibly 90+ young people burnt to death here, not poor kids either. Everything illegal of course, no license, overcrowding, underage kids, locked exit doors and a pyrotechnics show on stage! there's a recipe for disaster. Now are you surprised that nothing has happened to the owners? The place as even reopened under another name!
    The point i'm trying to make is that regardless of where you come from, the 'big people' who need to be brought to answer for these 'crimes' will remain protected! TIT!

  8. Andrew.. RSS feeds!!! it's gotta be possible with your new software.. please try! I'm sure I'm not the only one that uses them. sometimes people are too lazy to type website address in, they wanna know there's new items before they bother.

  9. What a shameful, so-called 'investigative' programme by New Zealand's TV3.
    The Carter family deserved so much better.
    Has Current Affairs output in New Zealand dumbed down to that extent? Or has it always been this exploitative, superficial and, well, downright lazy?
    The editing of the Thai interviews was racist and leading. On a subject of such importance surely the Thai contributors would have been better off being interviewed in their native language.
    Can't Kiwis be trusted to read subtitles or pay attention to an actor's voice dubbed over?
    As if the death of Sarah Carter was not depressing enough, TV3 had to broadcast this piece of slapdash and slipshod theatre fronted by a second rate 'reporter'.
    The hug at the end – the reporter breaking the news of her thoroughly unscientific and infotaining findings to Mr and Mrs Carter was all about the so-called reporter. Seriously third world stuff.
    And before you say, well good on 'em for at least covering the story (if you can call it that) then the words a job worth and doing, and insult and injury spring to mind.
    Appalling journalism. Sixty Minutes? They should cut this garbage back to Sixty SECONDS.

  10. Residual pesticide collected 3 months later proves nothing. This case is not solved by any means. Where are toxicology reports on Ms. Carter's body?

  11. QUOTE: If what 60 Minutes believes is true then of course it’s nothing short of a national scandal. The whole affair has the terrible odour of a cover-up. What is further it shows how weak are the missions of Canada, the United States, and France, all of whom had nationals in Chiang Mai, in actually looking after their nationals in getting information from the Thai government.

    Can't speak for the Canucks or the Frogs, but we Americans are well-aware of just how useless our embassy is for anything other than adding pages to your passport or registering a business under the amity treaty – and now they charge for adding pages. Try calling for help in an emergency and you'll quickly find out that this is not what they're here for. They exist to protect the interests of American companies and to handle very basic consular services, when they're not sending out uselessly alarmist CYA emails.

  12. Lord Wreath, I agree,
    TV crew collecting samples 3 months after the fact is ridiculous. How can Journalists even consider it as proof?
    And yes, Thais should always be interviewed in their own language as they constantly misspeak in English.
    The ""coincidence.."" statement was made at the time only four deaths were known and has been mistakenly applied repeatedly by the internet rumour mill that is keen to paint Thailand as governed by inept liars. ( Don't need false statements to prove that. )
    Many media reports are regurgiting the same mistake- stating seven deaths occurred in the hotel, when it is four.
    Why are there no toxicology reports?

    I'm standing by my theory of a serial poisoner targeting young attractive western women with drugstore bought compounds and Visine fits the symptoms.

  13. of course traces of chlorpyrifos were found in room. It is the most heavily used pesticide in the world. If they were killed by it then it would have had to be from ingestion–not inhalation or dermal exposure–because it takes literally ounces poured on the skin and prolonged inhaling of heavy thickened air to kill via those routes of exposure. There were a total of 7 victims in Chiang Mai over a space of some weeks, staying at 3 different hotels (though one, Bill Mah, did visit Downtown Inn and have drinks by the pool I believe).

    One readily available pesticide that can easily, reliably kill by inhalation, however, is Aluminum Phosphide which comes in three gram tablets and a piece of which if ingested will kill quickly. Used as a fumigant the world over and in India in an epidemic of suicides, and sometimes but not always with a garlic or fishy odor, if put in an AC unit to 'off gas' and kill, say, bedbugs–could easily be the culprit. (And I believe traces of aluminum were found in carpet).

    However, if so killed then probably not accidental because if Thais routinely used aluminum phosphide in hotel rooms we would hear of many, many more deaths from it. Plus of course Bill Mah who only visited Downtown Inn did not, apparently, go into the rooms and neither did Soraya Vorster who stayed elsewhere.

  14. Also, symptoms of victims do not fit the following alleged possible poisons:
    visine, food poisoning, puffer fish, mushrooms, hemorrhagic fever (Dengue etc), typhoid, but their symptoms do fit poisoning ingestion from a poison such as 'Lannate'('lannate' is translation of Thai brand name) which is methomyl, which a recent captured Thai killer used with great effect in the coffees of his robbery victims. Their symptoms also fit other carbamate or organophosphate poisons.

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