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General Wanchai (top) heads the meeting about the cemetery

Tsunami Victims: Fate of Cemetery Being Discussed

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
HIGH-LEVEL talks are taking place to determine the future of the cemetery that holds the bodies or the remaining unidentified victims of the 2004 tsunami.

The chief of the Thai Tsunami Victim Identification unit, Police Lieutenant General Wanchai Srinualnad, the Assistant Commissioner-General, came from Bangkok to meet local administration leaders in Phang Nga on June 11.

The cemetery, opposite the TTVI base in Baan Maruan, houses 381 yet-to-be indentified bodies, each buried individually in metal coffins within concrete chambers, designed to preserve the DNA.

General Wanchai told Phuketwan that the funds still exist for the TTVI's work to continue but at some point the work would have to end.

Some 851 DNA samples from 385 bodies were currently under analysis by the Beijing Genomics Institute, the general said.

He would like to see the cemetery turned into a memorial park at some point.

On the wall at the neat cemetery, where the small headstones bear numbers, are the names of 39 countries that suffered fatalities when the tsunami swept in on December 26, 2004.

A total of 5395 people died along the Andaman coast in Thailand. Because of the nature of the tsunami, the swirling water stripped many people of their clothing and swirled them to other beaches along the coast.

When forensic experts from more than 30 countries became involved in the indentification process, there were 2303 bodies without names.

Through the careful compilation and crosschecking of fingerprints, dental records and DNA by police around the world, all but 381 bodies have been identified.

Once identified, the bodies are exhumed and placed in cooled containers at the TTVI.

Most of the bodies of tourists were air-freighted home but in many cases involving poor Thai and Burmese victims now, monks conduct ceremonies on the spot, then the bodies are cremated.

Identification does not always bring a conclusion. The body of a Nepalese man, identified on January 18, 2006, has been awaiting the arrival of friends or relatives ever since.

With him in the containers at present are four Thais and 19 Burmese.

It is understood that about 60 foreigners are still formally listed as ''missing.'' DNA tests are unable to determine whether a body is Caucasian or Asian.

Several misconcieved attempts have been made to creating lasting memorials to the tsunami victims. The most appropriate and meaningful is the memorial gardens at Nam Khem, a fishing village close to the cemetery, where about 850 perished.

The gardens include a trawler and a memorial wall that curves like a wave. Two more trawlers sit high and dry, close to where the tsunami dumped them, on a cleared space on the other side of the village.

On Phuket, the memorial wall close to where 2000 bodies were once stored in containers at Mai Khao has been rebuilt in concrete by a generous Thai foundation but is overgrown with weeds.

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One year service of the General at TTVI Center in Bangkok, no decision was made to public debts such as electricity and water supply at Bang Maruan Cemetery!!!!

Posted by Anonymous on November 21, 2008 23:10


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