Phang Nga governor tells protesters local corpses will stay in temples
Phang Nga – The government confirmed yesterday that it would not transfer unidentified corpses from two identification centres for disaster victims in Phang Nga after facing another protest outside Yan Yao Temple in the morning.
More than 1,000 residents from five districts in Phang Nga gathered outside the temple and called on authorities to leave the bodies at Bang Muang and Yan Yao temples. Demonstrators also called on officials to construct a memorial to the victims.
The protesters blocked the street while waiting for a government representative to arrive for negotiations.
Phang Nga Governor Anuwat Metheewiboonkit arrived at the scene and announced that unidentified corpses would not be transferred from these two temples, except the bodies of foreigners that had already been examined by forensic pathologist Khunying Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand.
“A memorial is planned near Baan Bang Neang, where Royal Thai Navy ships were destroyed by the tsunami,” he added. “The government is in negotiations with the owner to buy the land.”
The memorial, he added, would contain all the victims’ names.
Pornthip said that all the corpses of Thais at Yan Yao Temple would remain in place until DNA-matching processes were finished, whereupon all bodies would be returned to relatives. She added that once analyses on foreign corpses were completed, the bodies would be moved to Phuket, where international experts would conduct examinations.
Before the protesters agreed to disperse, they asked that Interior Minister Bhokin Bhalakula announce the policy decision himself. They also requested representatives from villages to be allowed to join the official team as supervisors.
In response to the protest, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra explained that the leaders of several countries had called him to express their concern over the slow pace of identifying corpses by Thai experts.
“Some people [among the protesters] might want to make a political issue out of this,” Thaksin said. “I ask you, ‘Please don’t do that.’”
About 500 people attended an inter-faith memorial service at Loma Park yesterday for the victims of the tsunami.
The ceremony, organised by the Patong Business Operators’ Club, Patong Hospital and Patong Municipality, served to commemorate those who perished in the tsunami and to help bring peace of mind to those still suffering from the disaster’s after-effects.
Clerics from the local Christian, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities conducted religious rites from 8.30am at the park, where signs bearing the names, ages and nationalities of all known victims were placed in the beach sand nearby.
Bob Brown, an American tourist from Pennsylvania, told the Gazette that he appreciated seeing people of so many religious faiths come together to mourn the victims.
“I just arrived in Phuket yesterday, and this is my first time here,” he said. “I’m glad to have come here for a visit and to help people as much as I can. Today really shows that people here want to let all the spirits [of the dead] find their peace.”
The memorial service marked the beginning of a three-day series of evening concerts aimed at boosting the morale of residents and tourists alike.
Published on January 23, 2005
Phuket Gazette, Phuket