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Government to stay away from tsunami memorials

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18:37 CEST+02:00
Relatives of the victims of the tsunami have decisively rejected the presence of politicians at the forthcoming memorial ceremonies in Thailand. As a result, representatives of the Swedish government will be staying at home.

"This is a ceremony for the relatives and so obviously we will listen to their wishes," said the state secretary Lars Danielsson.

Sweden has arranged three memorial ceremonies in Thailand for relatives and survivors through the Council for Tsunami Catastrophe Support and Coordination. So far around 500 people have applied to attend - around 100 for each of two ceremonies at the beginning of November and around 300 for the anniversary itself on December 26th.

The anniversary will also be marked in Sweden by services in several locations.

The government, and especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was fiercely criticised for its reaction to the tsunami and many of those affected by the catastrophe were strongly opposed to government involvement.

Explicit requests for the government to stay away were expressed by the Council's advisors, at relatives' meetings and by e-mail.

"The relatives want to have a private, peaceful dignified ceremony without high representation but also without media coverage. These points have been made repeatedly to the government."" said the relatives' representative Birgitta Darrell to TT.

"We're not inviting people to the memorial services in the sense that we are sending out invitation cards. It's naturally up to the government themselves if they want to attend."

But the government has indicated that it will not go against the relatives' wishes.

The memorial service in November will be held at the Pearl Village Hotel in Phuket, one of the most visited locations for Swedes who have returned after the catastrophe. But it is still unclear where the ceremony on the anniversary will take place - the hotel in Khao Lak which was to have hosted it says it is no longer able to.

The Swedish government has contributed 8.6 million kronor to the relatives' cost of travelling to Thailand, though it is still unclear who will be entitled to receive a grant. A decision is expected at the end of the week.

At the beginning of September that issue was complicated by the Thai government's offer to cover travel costs.

There are 543 Swedes on the police's list of those confirmed missing or dead. 23 people still remain to be identified.

TT/The Local

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