Authorities plan to move the bodies of still-unidentified Western tsunami victims to Phuket on January 25, closing a temporary autopsy centre set up at Phang Nga’s Yan Yao Temple from February 3, Thailand’s leading forensic scientist Khunying Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand said yesterday.
Pornthip participated in a meeting at the tsunami victim autopsy and identification centre in Phuket where General Nopadol Somboonsab, head of the police’s victim identification unit,
and Interpol officials discussed methodologies to ensure work is carried out in line with Interpol’s disaster victim identification protocol.
The meeting was also held to demonstrate readiness to deal with corpses transferred from Phang Nga to Phuket’s Ban Mai Khao Cemetery.
After meeting disaster victim identification workers from 31 countries at the centre, Pornthip agreed the centre had a modern data collection system.
The corpses of victim believed to be Asian would be kept at Yan Yao Temple, while bodies believed to be of Westerners would be sent to Ban Mai Khao Cemetery from January 25, she said.
Pornthip was reluctant to forecast protests by residents against the relocation and said that an agency had already been tasked with helping villagers understand the reasoning behind the move.
Nopadol and Porntip, who, according to newspaper reports were earlier at loggerheads, parted ways smiling. Porntip said discussions went well and that a good understanding had been established.
Nopadol said the previous conflict was likely the result of exhaustion from too much work. After yesterday there would be no more problems or hard feelings, he said.
Nopadol also said he would not object if Phang Nga residents wanted the corpses of Asian victims to remain at the old location, but information from both centres must be pooled in one central location in Phuket.
There are approximately 1,800 bodies believed to be of Western victims and about 1,500 Asian corpses at the temple.
Nopadol also said he had invited Pornthip’s team to help at the new location and that some of the crew would come to study new methodologies used to identify bodies.
He added that Phuket residents would not be disturbed by the smell from the bodies because the centre is sufficiently distant from all communities, featuring storage systems and strict measures to prevent disease.
Published on January 25, 2005