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Tsunami victims still suffering
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  1. #1
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    sad Tsunami victims still suffering

    (IHT ThaiDay, 28 December 2005)

    Phang Nga – Somkid Komkam and his wife Nangpan sat on stools next to an empty lot in Ban Nam Khem, watching as a young man cleared rocks and roots from the overgrown, untamed land. “Our home used to be there,” he said.

    Somkid’s home was wiped away in last year’s tsunami. Now he lives in a one-room house built by the government. Without a toilet or even running water, Somkid, like others in the region, say one year after the disaster they are still waiting for life to get better.

    The government on Monday put on a series of spectacular and moving events to mark the first anniversary of the tsunami that killed more than 5,000 in the region.

    Government officials, foreign dignitaries, survivors and relatives from abroad, and a handful of locals, witnessed the ceremonies, which ended with Prime Minister Thaksin telling the hundreds of thousands in attendance and watching on television that “life goes on.” But for many, Monday’s date marked only the passing of another day.


    In Thailand alone, the tsunami destroyed thousands of homes, left more than 1,400 children orphaned and ruined the livelihoods of as many as 35,000 people, according to the latest figures from UNICEF. One year has passed and most of the affected people in Thailand have been moved out of the temporary shelters they were provided in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

    Most children are back in school, while many who lost jobs have found some way to generate income.

    Still, residents of Phang Nga say their lives are nothing like they used to be, and they are frustrated and disappointed with at the pace of recovery.

    “I am not satisfied. Perhaps some of the people who had nothing before, they are satisfied. Not us, we lost everything and we have almost nothing now,” said Somkid.

    Somkid’s village in Phang Nga was the hardest hit in the country, with nearly all of the homes wiped out and the economy devastated. One year on, Somkid, his wife and his two youngest of five children have been relocated to a 30-square-meter house. Aside from the lack of facilities, Somkid said he and his family cannot live in the tiny one-room house that the government considers “permanent housing” as opposed to temporary. But instead of settling down in their new space, Somkid and his wife are staying at a nearby temple while they wait to rebuild on their own land.

    Others in Phang Nga couldn’t even take advantage of government housing or any other services because they are not Thai citizens. One of the tens of thousands of Burmese workers living in Thailand, Mi Aye lost her home in Pakarang and two of her five children in the tsunami.

    “We lost our pigs, our chickens, everything. We were saving money. We were planning on moving back to Myanmar. Now, we will stay here longer,” she said. Mi Aye and her family spent the first few months after the tsunami living in a small one-room hut on a construction site. Today, they are living in a small shack made of plywood and corrugated metal on land owned by their employer. The only help the family has ever received has been from non-governmental organizations, said Mi Aye. “We got nothing from the Thai government,” she said.

    Stories like Somkid’s and Mi Aye’s are common in the tsunami-hit areas of southern Thailand, said aid workers who have been monitoring the recovery. Although the Thai government’s response to the disaster was laudable compared to the governments of the other countries hit hard by the tsunami such as India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, many continue to suffer the long-term effects.

    “The effects of the tsunami will be felt for years to come, and there is still so much work to be done,” said Mark Thomas, a spokesman for UNICEF Thailand. Other agencies say they worry that certain areas and certain people still desperately need the attention of the government.

    “The Thai government has done a great job with international visitors, and an amazing job rebuilding Phuket for tourists, but for next year they will need to start focusing on areas such as Phang Nga, minorities and migrant workers,” said one aid worker who asked that his name not be used.

    The United Nations’ most recent report on the tsunami concurred with this assessment, noting that the government had not done enough for certain groups of people, like Mi Aye and her family.

    For the next year, Mi Aye said she hoped she would be able to continue to save money, but did not expect life to be like it was before the tsunami.

    Somkid and Nangpan said they had plans to rebuild their home. But without money for construction materials, they weren’t sure even when they would begin the project. “We don’t know when. We are trying to get money together but it will take time, maybe more than a year,” he said.

    Neither Somkid nor Mi Aye attended any of the official ceremonies on Monday. Somkid and his family went down to the beach to burn incense and candles. Mi Aye gathered with her friends and family to remember the first anniversary of the event instead.

    “We didn’t go to the official events. We weren’t invited,” she said.


    Suzanne Nam, ThaiDay

  2. #2
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    It is disheartening to see that some do not yet even have a toilet more than a year after. So much relief money was sent, yet there are so many yet to be cared for. :(

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