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The Swedish segment of Phuket's forgotten  Wall of Remembrance

Phuket Wall of Remembrance Now a Disgrace

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Wall Disgrace Photo Album Above

PHUKET'S TSUNAMI Wall of Remembrance, erected as a memorial to victims from 45 countries, is now in a sad and shameful state.

Families, friends, dignitaries and even royals once came here to grieve for the 5395 people who lost their lives in the big wave less than four years ago.

The condition of the wall indicates that instead of remembering the tsunami and those who perished, the entire world has forgotten them.

At the time, generous donations by the international community sped the recovery of the Andaman coast and the identification of thousands of unnamed tourists, Thais and Burmese.

Now Phuket's memorial wall shows nothing but neglect. The wooden frames from floral wreaths that were placed on the wall at last year's anniversary ceremony dangle in the breeze.

Should the tsunami be remembered, or forgotten? Tell us your view in the Comment box below!


Grass grows high enough to make the wall difficult to reach, and the first tangle of vines is already claiming Myanmar's spot on the wall.

Many of the flags that once adorned the top of the wall have simply been blown away, including the Swedish ensign.

Australia's flag has almost vanished. The Stars and Stripes of the United States has entirely disappeared, along with the mast.

Erected as a symbol of compassion and reflecting the manner in which the tsunami touched 45 nations, the wall now symbolises the way the world fails to learn the lessons of nature.

To visit the site, as I have done twice recently, is a sad and shocking experience.

Two photographic portraits, one of a young boy and the other of a man with a child, remain among the mess, touching personal tributes.

It's likely that the wall will be tidied up for the fourth anniversary on December 26, that ambassadors, officials and dignitaries will come and place fresh wreaths.

Fine words will be said about the dead.

Then the tsunami and its victims will be forgotten all over again.

To forget the tsunami and its meaning is what many people on Phuket wanted all along. The wall is no longer even signposted.

Yet a short drive off the island into the neighboring province of Phang Nga, visitors will find the beautiful tsunami memorial gardens by the sea at the village of Nam Khem.

Two large trawlers that were swept inland are also preserved nearby.

The tsunami cemetery, where more than 300 unnamed victims still lie, is also kept in perfect order in another village, Bang Maruan.

Villagers recently scoured the dirt around the head markers and scattered sunflower seeds so the graves will be a blaze of color when this year's anniversary comes.

But on Phuket? On Phuket, they want to forget. They want the tourism dollar, yen, euro, and ruble all over again.

Memories of the wave and all it means are seen on Phuket as a hindrance to the tourist trade.

This is why the last of the unidentified bodies were escorted off the island in a convoy of sea containers led by Tourist Police in the middle of the night in 2006.

Phuket should be ashamed about the Wall of Remembrance, and so should officials from all 45 of the countries whose names line it.

The structure itself, at least, is solid, having been erected by a caring local charity foundation.

Two board versions collapsed in successive years after the wave, destroyed by fire, vandals, and the weather.

Local authorities and the Thai national government should bear some of the blame for the deterioration of the wall and all it stands for.

But then, so should the other 44 countries, some of them rich by comparison, whose names and flags once flew proudly here.

It would cost about 72,000 baht ($US2037*corrected) a year for a permanent caretaker, and perhaps a little more for replacement flags and flowers.

That appears to be a price that Phuket and 45 countries are unwilling to pay.

About 1070 Swedes and Germans died in the tsunami, along with about 185 Fins, 155 Britons, 115 Swiss, 95 French, 88 Austrians, a similar number of Norwegians, 78 Koreans, 40 people from Hong Kong, (which is on the wall as China) 36 Dutch, 28 Japanese, 24 Americans and 23 Australians.

About 2700 Thais died, along with a number of Burmese laborers.

Locals who wish to see the Wall of Remembrance in Mai Khao can find it by proceeding through the police checkpoint at the north of the island. Head into the right-hand bend that follows, then turn left at an unmarked track as you come out of the bend.

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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Alan might be a great writer but his maths sucks: 72,000 baht ($US18,000) Editor: You're wrong on the first point, but right on the second. Make that $US2037 at today's rate. Journalists and numbers don't relate, especially when money is involved.

Posted by Anonymous on November 13, 2008 12:14

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I'm not surprised the memorial wall is neglected. Locals and senior officials are not bothered as long as they can keep scamming tourists, the more the better. That's why there are no reminders of the One Two Go air crash at the airport, which i think is disgraceful considering these people lost there lives. They were willing to spend their hard earned money in your island but not one shred of remembrance.
Editor: The wall scrubbed up neatly for the December 26 anniversary (see our tsunami anniversary Photo Album) but will probably be left to the weather and the weeds now for the next 11 months. I am not sure whether most passengers want an airport reminder of a crash. But it's certainly about time, 15 months on, that the official report was released.

Posted by william dale on December 27, 2008 17:50

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Although there is no 'official' memorial to the One Two Go victims, there is a spirit house that was erected in a private ceremony on the anniversary of the crash. This spirit house is located a few meters from the small Tsunami Swedish memorial at the north end of Nai Yang beach, on the beach path and about 200 meters from the runway.

Posted by Simon Luttrell on December 28, 2008 06:57


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