01/02/2005, 00.00
THAILAND
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Buddhists pray for the dead, elephants help in post-tsunami recovery

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – According to Buddhist tradition, on the seventh day following death the soul of the dead must be blessed. Today is the seventh day since the deadly tsunami killed thousands of people in southern Thailand and Thai Buddhists are blessing their soul.

Prakhrupiboonthammanuyut, a Buddhist monk at the temple in Khaoluck, invited his fellow monks to join in the religious ceremony and offer the food and articles people gave them to tsunami victims as a sign of sharing.

"Birth, age, illness and death are four kinds of suffering or misery that will normally happen to every human being," Prakhrupiboonthammanuyut said.

The latest Interior Ministry figures indicate that 4,985 died in the quake-triggered tsunami—2,457 foreign tourists and 2,252 Thais. Another 276 bodies have not yet been identified whilst the missing are 6,424. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said that the final death toll might reach 8,000.

Aid operations for survivors are increasing. Close to 48,000 Thai and foreign volunteers from 129 organisations are actively involved in the six tsunami-stricken southern provinces of the country.

Drinking water remains a problem as rain threatens to make aid operations more difficult.

There is also an urgent need for psychological support and staff to help those who lost relatives in the disaster.

The province of Ayudhaya in central Thailand is providing aid and rescue organisations in Phang Nga province with six elephants to help find bodies buried in mud, hanging in trees or wherever other means cannot be used. (WK)

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