Your Daughter Died
There is a rash of poisonings happening in Thailand, focusing exclusively on women tourists.
Your daughter died.
Your daughter died thousands of miles from home. In a hotel where no one came to help. In a hospital where she struggled to keep breathing and just couldn’t. In a room where her heart — and somehow you still don’t really believe this — just stuttered to a stop. In a country, where authorities have failed for months, years even, to tell you how or why your daughter died.
Your daughter died on an island in Thailand, famed for its stardust beaches and its parties that glitter through the night. She died in an old and lovely mountain town, in the northern reaches of that country, just a few days after she wrote to tell you how very much she loved it there. Of course, you worried; what parent doesn’t when a child travels so far from home? But you thought she was safe or you would never have opened your hands as you did, let her go.
. . .
Your daughter, you’ve come to realize, died in a pattern that links too many other young women, a chain of suspected poisonings over the last few years. It starts with Jill St. Onge, 27, of Seattle, Washington, and Julie Bergheim, 22, of Drammen, Norway, who both died in May 2009 on the southern island of Koh Phi Phi. It continues with Sherifa Khalid, 24, of Kuwait, who died 12 hours after she spent a day on the same island in July of the same year. And it still continues.
. . .
Your daughter, Soraya Vorster Pandola, 33, of Berkeley, California, died in January of 2011, the same year the embassy was expressing its frustration over another death. She died to the north, in the city of Chiang Mai, where she’d been working as a bicycle tour guide. “In her last communication with us, a few days before we learned she’d been hospitalized, our daughter communicated to us how much she loved Thailand and the friendships she had cultivated during a series of visits there,” her father, Ted Vorster, wrote to me after I wrote two posts about what struck me — like so many others — as too many deaths with too little credible explanation.
You rushed to Thailand, hoping to save your child. But your daughter died just hours after your arrival. The Vorsters were told that Soraya appeared to be suffering from exposure to some toxic chemical compound, possibly a pesticide. Yet, a few weeks later when others in the same city started to die with similar symptoms — acute nausea, difficulty breathing, inflammation of the heart muscle — her father recalls the “reaction of the authorities in Chiang Mai was to downplay the significance, despite the almost identical symptoms and rapid progress of the illness to what my daughter experienced.”
. . .