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Thai victims complain they have been treated as...
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  1. #1
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    Friday December 31, 5:04 PM
    Local victims complain they have been treated as second class citizens in tsunami relief effort
    (AP) While foreign survivors of Thailand's tsunami disaster were put up in an international school complete with beds, television sets and Internet connections, locals from a devastated fishing village slept outside, many without blankets, burning wood to keep warm and keep mosquitos at bay.

    Locals said Friday they are torn between wanting to help the foreigners who are the lifeblood of their economy and getting what they can from the relief effort.

    "No one came to help, we just helped each other out," said 65-year-old Yokhin Chuaynui, whose home in the fishing village of Ban Nam Khem was destroyed. "When injured Thais went to the hospital, if they weren't about to die they helped the Westerners first."

    The contrast has been most marked in Thailand, where wealthy tourist resorts brush up against shanty fishing villages, but all around the Indian Ocean there have been reports of efforts to rescue foreigners leaving locals feeling passed by _ or insulted by the meager aid that has trickled to them since Sunday.

    Shortly after the water subsided from exclusive resorts and palm-fringed beaches of southern Thailand, authorities began setting up makeshift embassies, providing free phones and food to tourists. Hotels and an international school that survived relatively unscathed threw open their doors to shellshocked tourists and foreign governments laid on evacuation flights.

    But Wimol Thongthae said that in Ban Nam Khem, there was no help at all on the first day.

    "More than 2,000, or half of villagers in Nam Khem, have disappeared," he said.

    Eight out of 15 in his family are still missing _ including his 3-year-old daughter.

    "I'm living without hope and have not received any assistance," he said.

    In Ban Nam Khem, fishing boats have been dumped by the waves in the middle of town, a half kilometer (quarter mile) from the beach. They are still there and the stench of dead bodies rotting inside is overpowering.

    "The government gave more importance to Khao Lak and other tourist areas ... because this area is full of poor people," said provincial Sen. Wongphan Natakuathung.

    Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob, who is in charge of the rescue effort at Ban Nam Khem, insisted the government had not ignored their plight.

    "We do not abandon them. Everybody has tried their best," he said Friday as authorities pumped water out of streets. "If it is not fast enough in the villagers' eyes, it just could not be helped because the situation is so severe."

    Robert Eunson, 52, from Yorkshire, northern England, said that regardless of nationality, "the greatest need should be given the greatest care."

    But he said there was an element of self interest in Thai authorities' rush to help foreigners.

    "Tourism is so important to them so it's a hierarchy," he said. "They're trying to help their guests first, but that is the nature of Thai people _ they will put someone else first."

    Jeanette Dombrowe, 32, who was born in Ebersberg, Germany, but has lived for years on the island of Koh Payam, agrees.

    "The villagers are second class victims, but if we don't look after the Westerners the nation could lose its tourism _ so the villagers have to understand."

  2. #2
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    Unfortunately people in power only think of "the big picture" and they will want to re-establish the tourism as soon as possible and overlook the average Thai.This is very wrong,I wish I could change it but can only hope that organisations like Oxfam can have some influence.

  3. #3
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    Tourism, tourism, always that god*amn tourism. It always justifies why government is so tolerant about whoremongering, drug-crazed full moon parties and other despicable acts. This latest insult is just the tip of the iceberg, but in way, the most insulting of all. It is a harsh, in-your-face reality check on how far they are willing to go to sacrifice their own kind for tourist dollars. This has nothing to do with Thai hospitality - it is pure, sheer greed at its worst.

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