Mon, Jan 24, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Thai government's plan for make-shift morgue scrapped

AFP , BANGKOK

A row over plans to move the bodies of thousands of Thai tsunami victims from a Buddhist temple has been settled after more than 1,000 protesters rallied outside the makeshift morgue, the local governor said yesterday.

Following the mass demonstration Saturday by locals from across Phang Nga province, authorities cancelled a plan to move all bodies from the Yanyao temple at Takua Pa to an identification center on the resort island of Phuket 100km to the south.

Unidentified

"The unidentified corpses will not be transferred, only the bodies of almost 1,000 foreigners will be transferred to where the bodies are being kept in Phuket," Phang Nga Governor Anuwat Metheewiboonkit said.

Phang Nga was the worst-hit province. Locals have been concerned that shifting bodies from the temple would make it harder for them eventually to claim relatives who were killed by the ocean surge.

More than 5,300 people were killed in Thailand. Of the 1,785 bodies so far identified as Thais, 1,130 of those were from Phang Nga.

Stored

The bodies of some 2,000 victims are stored at Yanyao temple, according to the forensic expert running the giant make-shift morgue, Porntip Rojanasunan.

Forensic experts from more than 20 countries have worked with Porntip's team at the center.

Thai officials earlier this month reached a compromise over a row about who was in charge of identifying thousands of tsunami victims at the temple.

Porntip had threatened to resign after police moved in to take over duties she had rushed to fill in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Jurisdiction

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra smoothed over the row by stressing that the police had full jurisdiction over the process, while insisting that the center continue to be run by Porntip.

Forensic experts have said recently that the process of identifying bodies, which are kept in refrigerated containers at the temple, could take months to complete.

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