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Officers from 40 countries combined in the TTVI

Thai Official Accused of Tsunami Corruption

Friday, February 22, 2008
HUNDREDS of police around the world will be reacting today to the news that a high-ranking officer in Thailand's Foreign Affairs Division has been charged with misappropriating funds from the Thailand Tsunami Victims Identification Centre.

Police from about 40 countries helped to identify thousands of unnamed victims of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

The process represented international co-operation at its finest and produced the most successful example of forensic detective work the world has seen.

The accusation should not reflect on hundreds of honest police from Thailand and abroad who worked tirelessly to return as many victims of the tsunami as possible to grieving families.

Yet now, the continuing process of identifying the remaining victims has been left in limbo following the alleged misdeeds of Colonel Pornprasert Karnjanarin, Deputy Commander of the Royal Thai Police Foreign Affairs Division.

He resigned on February 10, with the accusation made plain but an outcome still pending.

For about a year, ever since accusations of corruption first surfaced, senior offcials connected with the TTVI have distanced themselves from the work of identification that continues at Baan Maruan, in Phang Nga, a short drive north of Phuket.

Even the figures of how many bodies remain to be identified are no longer considered reliable because, observers say, authorities have neglected the work.

One source says that 381 bodies remain unidentied. Information about the continuing work of the TTVI, which has been solely in Thai hands since the international components departed, is difficult to obtain.

In all, 5395 people died in Thailand during the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Almost 3000 of those vicitims, approximately half Thai and half tourists, were originally bodies without names.

More than three years on, only a handful of committed staffers from non-government organisations continue to try to find the identities and the families of the remaining nameless bodies.

According to one official at the cemetery, where most of the bodies are stored below ground in special DNA-preserving metal coffins within concrete chambers, 61 of the bodies belong to foreigners.

Germans and Swedes suffered most among non-Thais, numbering about 1080 of the overall tally.

For some time, people closely connected with the continuing identification process have been fearful that it will be wound up before the final victims can be identified.

The international police who worked with the TTVI may be relieved, however, to learn that no charges have been laid against a TTVI officer who was suspended when the probe into the missing funds began.

The accused official will have his pension benefits seized unless he is able to prove himself innocent.

Colonel Chaiyaporn Wannaprapa, Deputy Commander of the Disciplinary Division of the Royal Thai Police, said: "From our investigation, we believe that Colonel Pornprasert cannot prove his innocence and had thus been trying to avoid the consequences by reporting in sick until his resignation took effect."

On February 8, Colonel Pornpraset was given 15 days to appear before the investigating panel.

After the accusations first emerged, seven countries requested an independent audit to uncover what happened to 88 million baht in donated TTVI funds.

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Second scandal is ongoing TTVI funding now is about to finish. Approx. 20 identifications VS 16 million baht spent!!!

Posted by Anonymous on November 21, 2008 23:07


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