Ambassadors Question Possible Misuse in Tsunami Fund

The Ambassadors to the Bangkok-based embassies of Finland, Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States have submitted a joint demarche to Foreign Ministry and Royal Thai Police alleging for the disappearance of an estimated 1 million dollars in donations intended for Tsunami victims in Thailand on December 26, 2004.
In the joint letter dated on November 22 addressed to Foreign Minister Nitay Phibulsonggram and General Kowit Watana of the Royal Thai Police, the letter alleges that more than 60 percent of about 60 million baht ($US 1.7 million) were wasted and disguised as traveling and other miscellaneous expenses, according to The Nation newspaper in Thailand.
The western diplomats also request for an internal audit concerning the funds by “a reputable and qualified private accountancy company” covering the period from January 2005 until the present time.
According to General Amarin Niumsakul, assistant police commissioner-general, the letter from the envoys alleging misuse of funds was a serious allegation, which he said could be a misunderstanding.
Moreover, there are two pivotal issues raised in the letter; the status of DNA data of over 400 bodies and the bodies of over 400 missing victims which have not been located.
“During the first ten days after the Tsunami, approximately 2,000 bodies were released to relatives. Among them were some misidentified bodies. At the time, nobody wanted to raise any questions as efforts were concentrated on helping the victims,” stated in the letter.
“We want the data to be returned to the centre for further testing and matching,” quoting an unnamed source on The Nation.
Police General Achiravit Suwanphesad, the chairman of the victim identification center, acknowledged concerns about the misuse of money, but blamed foreign committees that jointly managed the funds until May of this year, when the remaining $US 800,000 was turned over to police management, according to Associated Press.
“We have managed to spend the money transparently and carefully,” said Gen. Achirawit, adding that police have asked to an audit of the money spent before May 2006.
Thailand Tsunami Victim Identification (TTVI) was established by the international community in January 2005. With its disaster victim identification operation, TTVI is considered the largest such multinational operation ever conducted. At one point, there were at least 600 officials from Thailand and 30 other countries to help the victims.

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