… Fifteen Years On.
It’s hard to believe that fifteen years ago today, right here in one of the most peaceful locations you could imagine, a seventeen meter wave came thundering out of nowhere, destroying everything and everyone in its path.
Of course, it wasn’t just here, it was all around the Indian Ocean, killing an estimated (most likely under-estimated) 250,000 people and creating almost unimaginable destruction.
It’s at this point on the Andaman Coast that Thailand decided to create a memorial.
The last time, I was less than impressed with the state of the place. This time, hmm, well, it wasn’t any worse, and maybe a little better. But, three years ago, the Bangkok Post carried an article which echoed my criticism and seemed to carry some good news. I wrote:
The article has phrases like … “many visitors have been disappointed …one Facebook user who said he was among survivors has unleashed his dissatisfaction … the place is not well maintained by state agencies … there are no lights at night … toilets are dirty … there’s no water.” All fair comments from my experience.
So now the government has planned the construction of a museum, to be overseen by the Culture Ministry, which is set to begin next year at Ban Nam Khem. It will be built with a budget of 64.8 million baht, the article says.
Okay, that all sounds like a huge improvement. Except that I’ve lived in this part of the world long enough to know that many announcements like this are designed to do no more than temporarily silence the critics.
In a few years time someone (me?) might inquire why nothing has been done, and the story will be that the cabinet didn’t approve the funds, or they were needed for something more urgent, or even that the story was not authorized.
And here I am, right on cue, inquiring why nothing has been done. What museum? What 64.8 million Baht? The place looks the same, with the exceptions that it is a little cleaner, but that it now occupies much less land.
It was surrounded by a nice garden. There was even a gardener. In fact, I chatted with him for a while. He informed me he’d just dropped his young son at school on the coast, and then went inland to his then place of work when the tsunami hit. The school was destroyed and the occupants all perished. I won’t forget that. But now, he and his garden are gone.
In a way, I suppose it’s good news. The local residents have returned the beach area to it’s original use. There are all kinds of beach games, playgrounds, plus of course food stalls, food stalls and food stalls.
My suggestion would be to create a new memorial in a peaceful location. Close by is the tsunami victims’ cemetery. I drove past. It seemed to be nicely maintained, but was totally deserted. Adding a memorial would not seem like a major task. It certainly wouldn’t cost 64.8 million Baht!
The present memorial has outlived it’s usefulness. Okay, it’s where the tsunami hit. But there’s a nice Buddha statue. That should stay.
Tomorrow it’s back to Takua Pa Old Town to find out what else I visited.