Guidance

Bereavement information – Thailand: murder, manslaughter and suspicious deaths

Information and advice if a family member or friend has been a victim of murder, manslaughter or died in suspicious circumstances in Thailand

Summary

Information and advice if a friend or family member has been a victim of murder, manslaughter or has died in suspicious circumstances in Thailand. This information is to help you understand what you need to do if a British national has been a victim of murder or manslaughter or has died in suspicious circumstances in Thailand and you are the next of kin.
You should also read the guidance available on what you need to do if you are bereaved through murder or manslaughter abroad, and what support the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can provide.

Post mortems/autopsies

For murder or manslaughter cases the police will conduct a full post-mortem. Normally, the deceased can be kept at the Police Forensic Institute (PFI) for up to 30 days. The deceased will normally be released after 30 days or sooner if the PFI have completed their tests. Your chosen funeral director can help with arrangements. However, the release of the deceased may be delayed if the State Prosecutor decides to charge a suspect.

If the deceased is not collected from the PFI after 30 days they will be buried and you would then have to contact the PFI to arrange exhumation. A daily storage fee of 300 Baht will be charged immediately after 30 days.

Post mortem reports are usually completed within three months. If you would like a copy of the post mortem report the British Embassy can request one on your behalf. A fee is payable to the PFI for each copy. You should note the post mortem report will be in Thai and you will need to organise and pay for translation. The British Embassy cannot do this for you but we can provide you with a list of translators.

Organ Retention

During a post-mortem, small samples of organs may be removed for testing, including toxicology tests, at the discretion of the doctor without consent of next of kin. Any samples removed are retained for the duration of the tests and are then put in storage for thirty days before being destroyed. They are not normally returned. The British Embassy has no authority to intervene in this procedure, or to stop it taking place. You can lobby and appeal to the local authorities to stop the destruction of the samples and have them returned to you if you would like to. You are advised to appoint a local lawyer to assist in the process. The deceased can be cremated in Thailand or returned to the UK before tests on removed organ samples are completed.

Repatriation

You should be aware that any hospital bills must be paid before the deceased can be released for repatriation. In order to repatriate the deceased, the British Embassy will need to issue a document called a “letter of release”. The British Embassy will need written confirmation from you confirming which funeral director will be organising repatriation - only then can the letter of release be issued.

A local civil registry death certificate, a certificate of embalming, and a certificate permitting transfer are required. Your chosen funeral director can arrange this for you.

Local formalities for repatriation normally take 8 to 10 working days to complete. Embalming is required for repatriation. Sometimes local embalming methods mean that the full range of tests cannot be done if a second post mortem is requested. Embalming procedures may have an impact on the efficacy of any subsequent post mortems (for example, if one is ordered by a Coroner in England or Wales).

Burial/Cremation

Burials and cremation are both available in Thailand, although as Thailand is a Buddhist country, burials are rare and normally only for foreigners. As a result they can be very expensive and difficult to organise, so you may want to consider having the deceased repatriated and arrange for the funeral take place in the UK.

Mortuary standards vary. There are several mortuaries with suitable facilities in Bangkok but rural mortuaries lack many facilities, including appropriate hygiene and sanitation. Some mortuaries also charge a daily fee. We therefore recommend you make a decision about funeral arrangements as soon as possible.

If you decide on a burial or cremation overseas there would not normally be a Coroner’s inquest in England or Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, inquests will not be held even if a body is repatriated to the UK. As part of a post mortem sometimes local embalming methods mean that the full range of tests for a Coroner’s inquest might not be possible once the body is returned to the UK.

Police Investigations

Timeframes for police investigations vary although if a suspect is arrested an investigation is usually completed within 6 months. However, investigations can continue for up to 20 years if no suspect is found. If no one is found guilty but you feel the circumstances around the death are suspicious, there is little you can do unless new evidence comes to light.

Access to information concerning a death, other than post-mortem and police reports can be difficult. The police usually share their case report with consular officials once the case has concluded. The Thai authorities will not provide information on their investigations directly to you or the next of kin. Requests for this information should be made through a legal representative or the British Embassy may be able to make a request on your behalf. The release of any information can take many months and will usually only be released once a case has completed, and the documents will be in Thai.

When a foreigner dies in Thailand, personal effects will be kept by the police case officer. You or your appointed funeral director can ask for them to be returned but you should be aware that if personal effects are being used as evidence in an investigation and court case, they will not be released to family members until proceedings, including any appeals have finished. In those cases where personal belongings are retained by the Thai authorities, the Embassy can request their return once legal proceedings have concluded.

Judicial Process

Timeframes for the judicial process can vary enormously and depend on the complexities of the case. Legal aid is not available in Thailand. The family of a murder/manslaughter victim will be given the opportunity to become a party to the case. The Thai authorities will need to know at the first stage if you wish to be a party to the case. This would allow you to be updated on the case and make representations in court should you wish to do so.

You do not need to become a party to the case, but should you wish to have detailed feedback from court proceedings, you may wish to appoint a lawyer before the case passes to the public prosecutor, normally about 84 days after an individual has been arrested. A lawyer can attend the trial on your behalf and provide you with updates on the proceedings.

The death penalty still exists in Thailand. As there is an unofficial moratorium in Thailand the death penalty is normally reduced to a life sentence. The UK government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We believe its use undermines human dignity, there is no proof of its deterrent effect, and errors made in its use are irreversible. Where there is a risk of the death penalty being imposed and carried out for the crime under investigation, the UK will seek assurances that anyone found guilty would not face the death penalty. Provision of UK assistance and related information may not be provided to the overseas authority if inadequate or no assurances are received.

Other useful information

  • The local media is often very intrusive and may publish graphic images, including of the person who has died, and the crime scene. Local media may also be present if you visit Thailand, including at meetings you have with the Thai authorities. The British Embassy press team can help provide local advice and guidance;
  • The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports have compensation schemes for the families of the deceased in certain circumstances. The Embassy can advise you on this. The Ministry of Justice scheme has a maximum amount payable of 100,000 Thai Baht and may take up to five years to grant a payment. The Ministry of Tourism and Sport has a maximum amount payable of 300,000 Baht. Compensation payments made in respect of a death must be collected in person by the next of kin, or by appointing a Power of Attorney to collect on their behalf. You may wish to seek advice from a local lawyer who could represent your interests.
  • A local death certificate, written in Thai and citing the likely cause of death, will be issued by the Thai Authorities, and is usually available within a day or two of death, although this will depend on how quickly the family contacts the District Office at the Province / Amphur . You should be aware that the cause of death given on the death certificate is often given in basic terms, and often does not reveal any underlying causes.

Neither the British Embassy nor HM Government accept legal liability with regards to the content of this information sheet.

Published 19 April 2017