Victims' kin in uproar as boats vanish

Victims' kin in uproar as boats vanish

Shown reverently at Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Center for 14 years, two boats washed up in the Boxing Day tsunami have been dismantled and junked (inset). (File photo)
Shown reverently at Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Center for 14 years, two boats washed up in the Boxing Day tsunami have been dismantled and junked (inset). (File photo)

PHANGNGA: Families of those killed in the 2004 tsunami are demanding the transfer of a chief cultural official following the removal of two fishing boats from an outdoor museum in memory of the tragedy in Takua Pa district.

The boats, which were specially acquired for the memorial park, have historic significance because they are among those that were washed ashore in the district by the tsunami.

Reports have emerged that the boats were dismantled and removed from the site due to their sorry state.

In their open letter, the families said the official was in the wrong for failing to maintain the fishing boats in their proper condition, and instead of taking the proper action he allowed them to be dismantled and carted off.

"The tsunami victims find his behaviour unacceptable. It is tantamount to deleting history and disrespecting the faith of the community. We are demanding his transfer from the Andaman," read the open letter.

Phangnga was among six provinces that were slammed by a series of gigantic waves 12 years ago on Dec 26, 2004. The others, also situated on the Andaman Coast, were Ranong, Phuket, Krabi, Trang and Satun.

Following the tragedy, an outdoor museum was built in Ban Nam Khem fishing village in Takua Pa district, a place already popular among tourists wishing to learn about the devastating impact the tsunami had.

The outdoor museum was touted as a "centre of culture and tourism" in Ban Nam Khem along with its primary function of serving as a tsunami memorial.

It featured two fishing boats that were designed in the local style and painted orange and blue.

Maitree Jongkraijug, leader of a civic group for victims of the tsunami in Ban Nam Khem, has criticised the authorities for a lack of understanding and sensitivity in removing the two boats.

In a series of his Facebook posts, he said the Culture Ministry acquired the boats for 11 million baht to serve as a memorial for thousands of people who lost their lives.

He also claimed the authorities are mulling replacing the real boats with sculptures -- also seen as being inconsiderate.

The local cultural office has declined to comment on the matter.

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