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Thailand - Death

In Thailand it is necessary to report any death to the police within 24 hours. This is the case even if the death is expected such as after an illness or accident. The police are then responsible for contacting the appropriate Embassy. Next of kin, if the person who has died is not in Thailand with family, will be notified by the Embassy. The cause of death will have to be determined by the Examining Magistrate so the body will be sent to their department for examination.

For a cause of death that is not suspicious the body is generally released to the family within three days of the examination. The death certificate will then be issued automatically by the office. If the cause of death is deemed suspicious or as a result of possible criminal activity the body will be held pending investigation. When the body is released a civil registry death certificate and a doctor’s death certificate will be issued automatically by the office. The death is automatically registered in this way and there is no need for the family to visit the local registry office. The body will only be released once all medical bills and charges for hospital stays have been cleared.

Burial of bodies in Thailand is rare and very expensive. It is more customary to cremate the body which is also more time efficient. The process for arranging a burial is lengthy. International funeral directors are fairly common in Thailand so there should be no language barriers when trying to make arrangements for the funeral. They can also help with the repatriation of the body to the home country if this is required.

When a cremation funeral is chosen then the body is sent on to the temple. There will be no formal funeral, and no specific timeframe for the cremation to take place. There are then several choices for the future of the ashes. They can either be kept in a Chedi at the local temple (similar to a Buddhist Stupa) or scattered in Thailand. In a situation where the ashes are required to be returned to the family then the funeral director can help with those arrangements. A member of the deceased’s family or a family representative can claim them in Thailand or if that is not possible the Embassy can help to have them sent back to the relatives and deal with any necessary paperwork.

If the body is to be repatriated then the insurance company (if there was one) can usually make all the arrangements needed to bring the body back home. They will liaise with the international funeral director in Thailand and deal with any necessary paperwork. However, if there was no insurance then the Embassy will then become involved and liaise with the funeral director in making arrangements to have the body shipped back home. The insurance companies will also need to be supplied with supporting documentation such as death certificates and doctors reports. Once the insurance company has been contacted they can advise on each piece of documentation they will require. With no insurance all fees are at the expense of the family.

Before repatriation can take place the body will need to be embalmed. It will then be placed in a zinc lined coffin. The funeral director will be able to supply the correct coffin as only those approved by the Thailand Customs can be used. This can take up to 10 days before the body is ready to leave Thailand.

There are several documents that will be needed including the doctor’s death certificate and the civil death certificate. A certificate of embalming will be required as will the certificate of permission to transfer the deceased.

The embassy can help with supporting documentation that will be approved by their own customs so there should be no issues with re-entering the home country. They can also provide translations of original paperwork if this is deemed necessary.

There are some concerns that since the change in flight security the airports have become stricter with some airlines not be willing to carry closed coffins. However, the Embassy should be able to advise which airlines will be willing to carry the coffin to bring your loved one home.

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