Burmese Migrant Tsunami Victims Laid to Rest
Cho Cho Than and U Khin Mying were finally laid to rest this week,
more than a year after the tsunami that claimed their lives in
Phang Nga, southern Thailand.
The bodies of the two Burmese construction workers, aged 30 and
40 respectively, were released to their families by the Thai
Tsunami Victim Identification (TTVI) authority. After Buddhist
rites at the Bang Maruan temple in Takua Pa district, they were
“There was a palpable feeling of relief and closure for
everyone concerned,” said IOM project officer, Aiko Kikkawa,
who witnessed the release of the bodies and helped to arrange the
funerals from IOM’s Migrant Coordination Centre in nearby
Baan Nam Kehm.
The Migrant Coordination Centre, set up in the spring of 2005,
facilitates contact between the Thai authorities and Burmese
migrants, many of whom work in Thailand illegally and are afraid to
come forward to claim the bodies of family members who died in the
Burmese-speaking IOM community health workers at the centre
explain to migrants how to claim bodies, collect information on
missing people, and in some cases take fingerprints and DNA
samples. The information is shared with the TTVI to help the victim
But while 83 of some 800 bodies in the Phang Nga morgue have now
been identified as Burmese migrants, in the past week only four
bodies have been released to the families with help from IOM and
the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB), a Thai
Despite efforts by the Law Society of Thailand to overcome legal
hurdles that prevent the release of bodies without either Burmese
or Thai identity papers, progress in completing the paperwork
remains agonizingly slow for bereaved migrant families.
The heirs of any registered Burmese migrant working in Thailand
legally at the time of the tsunami are entitled to TB 20,000 ($500)
in compensation from the Thai government. The families of
unregistered migrants who were working in the country illegally and
who died are not entitled to any compensation.
IOM’s initial assessment of the tsunami’s impact on
the Burmese migrant community suggested that some 7,000 people were
affected by the disaster. The majority worked in construction,
tourism and the fishing industry. The total tsunami death toll in
southern Thailand now stands at 5,395.
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