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A small boy is hoisted to his mother's plaque: a touching moment

'That's My Mum' as Tsunami Victims Remember

Saturday, December 26, 2009
HUNDREDS of people placed roses on a shrine at the fishing village of Nam Khem today in bright sunshine that was reminiscent of the day the tsunami came five years ago.

The village in Phang Nga, where more than 800 perished, has become the central point for ceremonies marking the tsunami along the Andaman coast.

Children seemed to be everywhere, scampering along the beach, lining up to have a free icecream placed in the hand that was not already holding a white rose, adding the vitality of youth to the solemn occasion.

Many of them were, as it turns out, orphans. Others were not born when the tsunami struck.

One young boy, seeing the name of his mother high up on the wall at the beachside memorial, was given a hitch up so he could put his rose close to her plaque.

''That's my mum,'' he said, asking for an adult's help.

Scores of photos of family and friends formed the centrepiece of the occasion, along with a large photograph of the young prince who became its most prominent victim and whom the Thai royal family continues to mourn.

Elsewhere in Nam Khem, a tsunami safety centre is being constructed, with broad exterior stairways and about four levels of sanctuary.

Nearby, the Nam Khem wat has a new white-painted temple. It's a healthy sign. In the years after the tsunami, the local abbot farewelled Buddhists who were victims of the wave, and lost others to Christian missionaries.

Today the village seems filled with life again, with fishing trawlers butting past today's ceremonies, although officials say only about half the population who were here before the tsunami have returned.

Later, at the cemetery at Bang Maruan where the bodies of 398 unidentified victims of the tsunami remain, a smaller ceremony was held involving Thailand's Education Minister, Jurin Laksanavisit, the Swedish Ambassador, Lennart Linner, Phuket Danish Consul Kenneth B.R. Karlsson, and briefly, the US Vice Consul Charles C. Carson.

The Governor of Phang Nga,Yiamsuriya Palusukm, was also there. The diplomats met with Police Lieutenant General Danai Wongthai, assistant commissioner of the Office of Forensic Science, which oversees the work of the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification unit, and a large representation of present and former identification unit staff.

In Thailand, at least 5395 people died as victims of the tsunami. There are 398 unidentified victims, and 444 people still listed as missing.

The bodies of many of those still missing may be among the unidentified nameless, but officials are not hopeful of adding to the thousands whose identities have been returned over the past five years.
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