While an expert claims that foreigners or visitors to Thailand should not fear snakes, it is sensible to be cautious – there are some horror stories

As long as you live in Thailand near vegetation or wildlife, you are unceasingly under the threat from Thai snakes although many of them are harmless. For some foreigners there is an ambivalent attitude towards the danger of snakes in Thailand, it is a luxury that cannot be afforded. Snakes are not something to be treated lightly.

The threat of snakes or snake bit in Thailand should not be taken lightly. Pythons pose a deadly threat to humans.
Two photos from two different scenes in the last few years in Thailand where python snakes have attacked Thai people. The photo on the right shows Thai officials removing a deadly python snake who mercilessly choked Thai man Sawan Tubklai (55) to death. The Thai man had jailed in a jar in his home for a number of days and when it emerged, it took its revenge. The photo on the right shows another python who attacked the genitalia of Thai man Attaporn Boonmakchuay (38) as he sat on the toilet at home. The latter story made worldwide headlines as Mr. Boonmakchuay survived the ordeal after hospital treatment thanks to his wife who summoned help while he fought off the snake. While most experts suggest that snakes in Thailand pose a marginal threat to foreigners, it is one that should not be written off nor taken lightly as a continuous series of news reports and incidents in recent years attest to.

Monsoon season begins and so does the invasion of the treacherous, slithering creature. A symbol of deceit and evil powers in many cultures, snakes can be found anywhere in Thailand: coiling up in the garden, slithering across the street, swimming on the water or even lurking in bed. Snake-bite victims are increasing, some are lucky and some are not. If you want to live to avoid danger, it is no harm to take care and be aware of the threat. There are no reported cases yet of foreigners or visitors succumbing to a snake bite in Thailand but there are regular encounters and every year Thailand reports tragic cases of death by snake bite.

Thai grandparents find child dead in bed after snake bite

In January, Prapawadee Prawat’s grandparents woke her up in the morning. But she could never awaken as they found their nine-year-old granddaughter cold dead with a snake bite on one of her fingers.  A cobra was found lying under a blanket on her bed and was immediately killed. She had apparently been dead for eight hours by the time her body was discovered and there was a strong possibility that the cobra bite was the cause of her death.

Thai father’s quick thinking saves daughter’s life after cobra attack

Some time later, another Thai child was bitten by snake, but this time, the 7-year-old girl in Nong Lao was far more fortunate. Watcharin, a 41-year-old man, was working in the middle of the night when he heard a terrifying scream from his daughter’s bedroom. He rushed in and found that she had been bitten by a creature with big fangs. He immediately inspected the bed and discovered, again, a cobra under the blanket which he proceeded to beat to death. The Thai girl was taken to hospital and given proper treatment and luckily, her condition soon stabilized.

Foreigner shocked by Thai wife’s reaction to his encounter with venomous snake

It is now conventional wisdom that the majority of snakes in Thailand are not venomous but there are fears that many foreigners are not cautious and wary enough of the deadly threat posed by the creatures. A foreigner married to a Thai woman discovered this recently.

Foreigner’s boxing reflexes may have saved his life from a snake attack

The western foreigner, living in Isaan province, was surprised one morning as he retrieved a bucket with car wash essentials on a porch near his house. It was just a swift movement out of the corner of his eye and it immediately recalled his boxing reflexes from the past and just in time. The man instinctively moved out the way ducking to the side. A snake lunged straight at him and just as quickly disappeared. The western man recovered from the shock just in time to see the tail slithering under some mats his Thai wife uses to eat with friends and family. He shouted out to her that he had just been attacked by a snake. His initial surprise give way first to acceptance that in Thailand snakes are common. This turned again to outright shock as he witnessed the fearless and violent reaction from his wife. She emerged onto the porch determined to find the snake and to kill it. The foreigner suggested to his wife that she should just frighten it off, it was not necessary to kill it. In Thailand many foreigners learn that it is part of Thai culture to avoid killing living things where possible.

Thai wife determined that snake would not threaten her family

Again he was taken aback by the vehemence of his wife’s reaction. ‘The color,’ she kept saying. The foreign husband tried to reason with his wife but she would brook no argument with him. ‘We have 4 kids,’ she said ‘You want them to get bitten by the snake?’ The man offered her his shovel and she hunted the snake down, killing and severing it with some swift blow. The dazed foreigner took photos of the snake and later, searching the internet, found that it venomous. Only for his boxing reflexes, the bite could well have killed him as there was no anti venom available locally for that particular snake bite. The foreigner and his Thai wife later altered and remodelled their garden including adjacent areas to help prevent future unwelcome visitors.

Disney movies are not a good preparation for living in Thailand

‘Thailand poses some deadly threats, not least from mosquitoes, snakes and even rabid dogs. Many foreigners coming to Thailand from western countries have been brought up in a safe environment and a culture which seeks to develop empathy with wild creatures such as snakes, personally I’d have none of it. Thailand is simply too dangerous and hostile an environment for such attitudes. We see people killed regularly in Thailand from snake bites in particular younger people and the old,’ says James Morris, an observer in Bangkok. ‘This story illustrates the common sense of Thai people particularly Thai women. If you’re coming to live in Thailand, forget Disney, the snakes here are real and dangerous. They’re not your friend.’

Most Thai women know how to deal with snakes

But finding a Thai spouse in snake-infested Thailand is the best option as Thai people know how to deal with the creatures. On an online forum, another western expat recounted a similar encounter with a snake found this time in his bedroom. Again, he only wanted to shoo it away but his Thai wife also insisted on killing it. Another internet search showed that the species was also venomous and could kill him in minutes. This time there was some disagreement with some commentators suggesting that the bite would have to penetrate very deeply to be dangerous. The horrific story of the young child found dead and the other whose life was only saved by her quick thinking and acting father, shows that many snakes in Thailand are indeed dangerous. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible but it is equally wrong to be paranoid about snakes as most people are unlikely to even encounter one. There are 35 different species of snake alone in Thailand that are classed as extremely venomous.

Snake expert suggests that foreigners or visitors should not be afraid of Thai snakes

An expert on snakes in Thailand points out that most snakes will seek to avoid human beings even if confronted. The only snake that would prey on human being is a large Python. This species exists in Thailand and have proven to be deadly. A horrific news report in recent times from Malaysia recounted how the body of a Malaysian was found in a Python’s body when cut open. The expert claims, however, that deaths resulting from snake bites in Thailand are under 10 deaths per year and confined to plantation workers who fail to report to hospital immediately. Recent news reports of deaths from snake bites may suggest otherwise. It is true that there has been an increase in reports of snakes attacking humans and the detection of snakes in the last few years in Thailand. As one of the stories in this article attest to, it is not a good idea to play with a snake or to vex it. There are also regular reports of those working with snakes suffering deadly bites. The snake expert also advises people visiting Thailand to avoid annoying snakes or getting too close to them. He points out that he is not aware of any foreigner or visitor to Thailand suffering from or being killed by a snake bite. He does suggest that it is not advisable in Thailand to walk barefoot on grass or in any vegetation where you cannot see your feet.

Python mercilessly kills Thai man who jailed it in a jar

It is good to know that most snakes only attack humans when provoked, and the kind of blood-thirsty serpents that deliberately strike (and devour) people are limited to large pythons. That fact was also illustrated in a story from Thailand of a python who intentionally killed a Thai man who had confined it. Sawan Tubklai, a 55-year-old man, had kept the python, for some reason, in a jar for three days. It is unclear how the 3-meter python got out but it soon had its revenge on the Thai man. His sister said that the python wrapped itself around Sawan’s neck, breaking it and strangling him while she screamed and did all she could to save her brother. By the time other family members arrived to help, Sawan Tubklai was already dead. The python, which suffered some injuries during the fight, was preserved by animal rescue volunteers and later released back into the wild.

Thai man attacked by snake while sitting on the toilet

Another encounter between man and snake was both horrifying and awkward.  Attaporn Boonmakchuay, a 38-year-old man, was using a toilet when he felt an excruciating pain underneath. He suddenly realized that a python from a squat toilet had sank its teeth into his penis and was pulling him down. He prised its jaws open to save himself while his wife, hearing his call for help, rushed in and tied a rope around the python to stop it. Later, Boonmakchuay fell unconscious and was taken to the hospital. Despite losing a lot of blood, he made a speedy recovery and was discharged after receiving international media coverage. The python was retrieved from the plumbing and also released back to nature.

Only 30% of Thai snakes are venomous but the threat is real

For all those shocking and nightmarish confrontations, the good news is that only 60 out of 200 species of snake in Thailand are venomous. This means that even if you encounter a snake in areas near vegetation, the chances of dying from a snake bite are lower. However any dealing with a snake in Thailand is a potential dance with death. The threat should not be dismissed. You can take preventive measures such as checking your room and beds carefully or making your garden less welcoming for snakes by removing low bushes, tall grass and unkempt, cluttered environments where snakes may be tempted to camouflage themselves or seek shelter.