The brother of a Leicestershire English teacher who died in Bangkok yesterday (March 26) is calling for an inquiry into the British Embassy Bangkok’s handling of the matter, in addition to an inquiry by the Thailand Government into his employment by Kasem Bundit University.
Speaking from his home in Devon, Michael Davies said the manner in which the British Embassy Bangkok handled his brother Gareth’s basic human rights was “absolute crap”, at the same time lambasting his brother’s employer, Kasem Bundit University, for ignoring Gareth and failing to correct a wrong for almost a month.
“The foreign service costs the taxpayer a lot of money, but when people are most vulnerable and in need of assistance the average UK citizen abroad can’t get these well-paid, trumped-up clerks to get out of their air-conditioned offices when a British subject is in dire need”.
In an attempt to gain answers Mr Davies said he had requested an autopsy be performed on his brother in Bangkok, as his condition seemed to have deteriorated rapidly over the last week or so.
British Embassy Bangkok failed to make one face-to-face visit
On March 16 in an eMail to photo-journ’s newsblog, Mr Davies said:
Spoke on the phone with Gareth today.
Indications are that he may be able to fly home soon on normal flight. I am now in touch with Embassy and they will assist in arrangements.
I have also asked for arrangements to pay hospital. Can you please assure doctors that I am attempting to pay ASAP.
Need them to take care of him.
“Despite several alerts from different people that Gareth was deteriorating and being neglected, British Embassy staff in Bangkok failed to undertake a single face-to-face consular visit”, Mr Davies said, adding he was told that “because he had access to a mobile phone they didn’t think a contact visit was necessary.
“Gareth died at about 7am Bangkok time, which is 1am in England. But I didn’t get a phone call from the British Embassy Bangkok until 8.30pm Bangkok time‚ 2.30pm in the UK, and even then the chap just said, “I understand you’ve spoken to the police” and went on from there.
“The British Embassy Bangkok’s got my home, work, and mobile numbers and I told him if it hadn’t been for Gareth’s friends in Bangkok and Twitter, I would have been thinking Gareth was still alive up until that time”
UK worker protection in Thailand
Mr Davies also criticised his brother’s employer, privately-owned Kasem Bundit University, for failing to ensure Gareth was enrolled in Thailand’s Social Welfare Fund, as required by Thailand labour laws, until media attention brought it into the spotlight last week.
“The Thailand government wants English teachers to go there, but when people with a passion for teaching English to foreign students do, they are often paid poorly, charged “farang prices”, and not given the basic rights and protection that a Thai employer would even think about withholding from local staff.
“There’s no question Gareth was ill. But if the payments Kasem Bundit University had been taking from his salary had been paid to the Social Welfare Fund as required I wouldn’t have had to move him to a hospital I could afford 45 miles (72km) from Bangkok, instead of to a hospital with the specialists necessary to treat his illness”, Mr Davies said.
Born in the village of Glennfield, 47-year-old Leicestershire English teacher Gareth Davies accepted a staff teaching position with Kasem Bundit University’s department of English language for communications.
On October 17, 2011 he was issued his Thailand work permit, though he had been teaching at Kasem Bundit University for several months prior to that while it was being processed.
Thailand’s Social Security Office website states: ‘A notice to register the insured with the Zone Office of Social Security must be given within 30 days with effect from the date on which the employee is engaged as an employee or otherwise it is an offense punishable by not more than 6 months imprisonment or a penalty fine of not more than 20,000 Baht (£408 / US$650) or both’.
UK ambassador claims powerless to intervene
In a flurry of Twitter messages with photo-journ’s newsblog last Friday, the British Ambassador to Thailand, Mr Asif Ahmad, said “visits not the only way we help 100’s of Brits in hospital. Fortunately in this case friends and relatives have visited.”
Mr Ahmed also claimed: “Media focus on case has had a positive influence on the employer.
“You [photo-journ’s newsblog] stepped in an area UK govt cannot intervene”, adding “employment and other commercial contracts are not areas where we can intervene. We can raise systemic problems which we do”.
In reply to a later tweet complimenting him on responding to critics of his previous comments and for adding “a human response from our Governments”, Mr Ahmad replied: “People will disagree with Govt. Public & media right to campaign for more”.
However, according to Mr Ahmad, the “UK US AUS have similar consular practice”.
Australian government consular assistance protocols for citizens in distress
A hypothetical scenario was posed to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra (DFAT) as follows:
An Australian citizen is employed legally abroad and has deductions for that country’s compulsory social welfare scheme deducted from his salary but the employer does not remit this to the social welfare fund.
The employer becomes seriously ill but is not covered for free hospital care because the employer failed to make compulsory payments. The family make payments, but run out of money and move the patient to a cheaper hospital.
The local embassy is advised their foreign citizen is extremely ill and receiving a questionable standard of medical care.
1. Would Australian embassy officials raise the employment protection rights of Australian workers with the foreign government?
2. Approximately how long after being notified that an Australian citizen is in distress would local consular staff organize a face-to-face meeting to investigate for themselves
3. Would a telephone call to the sick citizen be considered adequate consular assistance – especially if repeated alerts were being provided that the citizen was gravely ill and deteriorating?
4. If this Australian citizen was going to be evicted from a hospital due to lack of insurance coverage that should have been provided by the employer, how would embassy staff react? (See here for the Australian DFAT consular assistance protocols for Australian citizens in distress.
Disgusted at lack of action by British Embassy Bangkok
Mr Davies said it is “disgusting that after having been notified of Gareth’s worsening situation the British Embassy Bangkok took an ‘as little effort as possible approach’, while people such as Bangkok businesswoman Patrachit Chotikapanich, junior, mid-level and senior Thai government employees, and others who didn’t even know Gareth, including photo-journ’s newsblog, put more effort into helping him than his own government.
“We’ve got an English teacher employed at Kasem Bundit University not covered by compulsory Thailand insurance, comments from a doctor at Rajavithi Hospital that Gareth arrived very malnourished, reports he wasn’t being bathed, was left in a toilet for more than three hours on the floor after a fall, and in 18 days no one from the British Embassy Bangkok is able to go look in on him?
“Where’s the value to the British public of this embassy? How many other English language teachers are there out there without proper cover? Or how many other Brits are there around the world in a really dire situation through no fault of their own that are all but ignored by our diplomats?
“How does Kasem Bundit University or the Thailand Government expect to attract quality English teachers when their rights are abused like this?”, Mr Davies asked.
Footnote: Mr Michael Davies wishes to express his sincerest thanks to the numerous Thai people, many of whom did not know Gareth, for their tireless efforts in attempting to help him.
Feature photo John Le Fevre
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He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Most recently he was the Thailand editor/ managing editor of AEC News Today . Prior to that he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.
Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me
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