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Forgotten graves lie under weeds at the Tsunami Cemetery in Phang Nga

UPDATE Thailand's Tsunami Graves Cleared of Weeds as 10th Anniversary of Big Wave Draws Near

Thursday, November 6, 2014
Updating All Day, Every Day

WEEDS that covered the entire tsunami cemetery have been cleared to reveal the markers of the unnamed victims, a Phuketwan reporter discovered on a visit on November 8. The tenth anniversary of the 2004 tsunami falls on December 26.

Original Report

PHUKET: Weeds grow two metres high over the graves of the tsunami dead north of Phuket, with the tenth anniversary of the big wave just a few weeks away.

The remains of 388 people are buried here in Baan Bang Maruan, those among the 5400 victims of the December 26, 2004, tsunami who could not be identified despite the best efforts of international forensics experts from 40 countries.

The Tsunami Cemetery in the province of Phang Nga is a sad symptom of Thailand's ability to quickly forget the past.

The rest of the world has not forgotten the 2004 tsunami, which generated a huge wave of sympathy for the Phuket region.

Documentary film makers have descended on Thailand's Andaman Coast region in sizeable numbers from around the world over the past few weeks, each recording the effects of the big wave, 10 years on.

Next month, ambassadors from scores of countries will be arriving in Phuket and Phang Nga to mark the tragic anniversary - and to celebrate the wonderful deeds that were performed to overcome the disaster as quickly as possible.

The graves of the unidentified tsunami victims remain covered in weeds. And Thailand's plans for the highly significant 10th anniversary of the tsunami remain cloaked in mystery.

Comments

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Since there's no money in it for them they, don't care.

RIP for the unidentified souls.

Posted by Nicke on November 6, 2014 09:21

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It is so sad that 388 souls were not missed or reported & that they could not be identified. May they RIP.

Posted by Logic on November 6, 2014 11:19

Editor Comment:

Were not missed? Of course they were missed. Please do some research.

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If this is not a sad reflection on Thailand I don't know what is. The facts are in your photos. Whilst this cannot be compared to the unidentified soldier killed in combat whose graves in many countries are kept immaculately 50 years or more later as these people died on Thai soil Thailand should show more care and respect for them. Clearly they do not. In the overall budget for the country it is a tiny amount of money. However there are those that would argue if we are going to spend money on the dead better to spend it on the living like poor single mothers with a baby who often go into prostitution instead.

Posted by Feisty Farang on November 6, 2014 11:47

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Once again Thailand disgraces itself. More bad publicity will follow if "ambassadors from scores of countries aill be arriving " and the documentary makers report things as they really are.

Posted by jimbo34 on November 6, 2014 11:48

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I don't understand why can't the local council provide workers to keep that site pristine 365 days of the year.

Posted by DG on November 6, 2014 11:58

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@DG clearly there is no budget for maintaining the memorial and grounds, grass cutting, jet washing the brickwork etc.

Posted by Feisty Farang on November 6, 2014 12:35

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A local once told me that graveyards are purposely kept untidy to make the area unattractive to evil/bad spirits.

Posted by PollyWaffle on November 6, 2014 15:53

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Thanks for bringing this terrible situation to the wider audience Phuketwan !!!!!!The 26/12/14 should be paid the tribute it deserves . Not only commemorating the terrible loss of so many lives but an opportunity to celebrate and commend all the amazing individuals and groups and other ' unsung ' heroes' for the superb nature of the response . The ' generosity of spirit' and the amazing recovery certainly gained Phuket international respect !

The Ministry of Foreign Affiars and the local Phuket and Phang Nah Authorities need to ensure that the world will be watching !

Posted by Debra on November 6, 2014 16:51

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Reading the comments posted here, it amazes me how long some foreigners can live in this country, and still not appreciate the difference between the Thai Buddhist and western understanding of, and therefore attitudes toward, death.

In this culture, once the spirit departs, the form which remains is meaningless.

From a Buddhist perspective, there is nothing of significance in those graves.

Posted by matt on November 6, 2014 17:15

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I can only concur with Polly Waffle and Matt. After all, how many moaners and pissers 'contributing' to this forum have actually made an effort in any way shape or form to learn the local language? My educated guess would be at the most around 10%. I will willingly stand corrected if proven wrong. Until people (foreigners) make an effort to assimilate into local culture, bleatings about 'this is not the way things are done in the west' are invalid at best, and show a marked ignorance and arrogance at worst. Local graves here are tended to by family members. There are no (or very few) family members of these victims in the region. That said, I agree that the memorial is a disgrace when seen though western eyes - so what is to be done? Should we raise donations to maintain them? It's in your ball court, farangs...

Posted by Sam Wilko on November 6, 2014 19:12

Editor Comment:

I'm not sure that using the term 'farangs' is valid when people from more than 40 countries died. Of the 5400 victims, about half were Thais and half were non-Thais. What's sad is that unidentified tsunami dead have about as much street cred as the average stateless boatperson. Humankind is supposed to have risen above all that.

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The graveyard is not, by comparison, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission site, kept pristine by the sizeable efforts of local staff employed by the CWGC, and perhaps it is wrong to expect the a similar level of care.

However, the CWGC and its graveyards are funded by governments. These governments comprise some of those of the Commonwealth, and their men and women that lost their lives in war. (In diminishing order of financial contribution to the CWGC) these countries are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India.

Impossible, of course, to suggest which countries could/should fund maintenance of the site because it contains unidentified victims and therefore of no known country.

And so the governments of all the countries which lost their peoples in the tsunami could contribute to it. It would not be much.

A philanthropist (if one is reading) could fund it. So could central government. Perhaps work parties from the nearby prisons could maintain it.

An alternative is to let nature take over the graveyard.

It is in a country of a different culture, and is not a little piece of Sweden, the UK, France & c. Nor, again, is it a CWGC site. It is in Thailand and if the Thais do not want , or feel it is inappropriate to maintain it because of culture, religion or any other reason, so be it.

I am reminded of a poem by Elizabeth Frye:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Your correspondent Debra writes "The 'generosity of spirit' and the amazing recovery certainly gained Phuket international respect."

Perhaps the lasting memorial to the dead, and perhaps especially the unidentified - none of whom, surely, is forgotten, but is mourned somewhere by someone - is that "spirit", which existed for a time after the tsunami.

That generosity of spirit could be resurrected for another solution.

Any foreigner living in Phuket/Phang Nga/Krabi could stop expecting someone else to maintain it and to adopt a grave, taking responsibility for it and 1/388th of the remaining area of the graveyard.

Posted by Andy Johnstone on November 6, 2014 21:42

Editor Comment:

Wonderful poem. Each body has been buried in a metal coffin within a concrete tomb because that is the best way of preserving DNA. So the hope was, with these sophisticated burials, that in time, all might be identified. That hope is what should never be forgotten. And it's what distinguishes these graves from the war graves of the nameless fallen. Hope. For those families who have yet to achieve closure, hope remains constant and enduring.

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They forgot about the 1 two Go accident too. Not even a memorial in there honour or remembrance. Shows there total lack of respect.

Posted by william on November 6, 2014 22:01

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Altho, I've never been to Thailand, I was so struck by the tsunami and the loss of life, I wrote a book about it and the elephants who "cried." Many copies have been sold that introduced folks here to the country, the tragedy and the wonderful people and animals. . We celebrate the living and believe those lost now live in a far better place.

Posted by Nancy Murray on November 7, 2014 08:52

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I was there during that time period and missed the wave by about 45 minutes as my family and I departed Phuket for Christmas on the other side of the peninsula. I am still in shock 10 yrs later as I view TV replays of the devastation of many of the locations I stayed in Thailand over the last 30yrs.

Posted by John on December 22, 2014 22:31


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