DNA work complete in two weeks – Bhokin

PHUKET CITY: The bodies of approximately 2,200 unidentified tsunami victims are still awaiting extraction of DNA samples for analysis in China. Most are being kept at Wat Yanyao and Wat Bang Muang in Phang Nga, Interior Minister Bhokin Bhalakula told a a press conference at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday afternoon.

K. Bhokin said that forensic science teams can extract DNA samples at an average rate of about 200 bodies a day, so he expects the entire process to be finished within two weeks.

“We have already taken 1,000 DNA specimens. The Public Health Ministry, Royal Thai Royal Police, Central Institute of Forensic Science and Interior Ministries have all agreed to send the samples to China for analysis,” he said.

Bodies from which DNA samples are extracted in the post-mortem process are being microchipped to enable relatives supplying DNA samples to claim the bodies and have a death certificate issued by the Thai government, he said.

K. Bhokin did not mention the heated controversy surrounding the takeover of the DNA sampling effort by Royal Thai Police, supposedly so that it can be conducted in accordance with Interpol standards.

That move will require the exhumation and re-examination of thousands of bodies so that an Interpol Disaster-Victim Identification (DVI) Form can be issued for each, regardless of believed nationality.

Pol Gen Noppadon Somboonsap was also quoted as saying the refrigerated containers housing the bodies of in Phang Nga will be moved to the temporary morgue at Mai Khao to allow for easier identification.

The DVI center, formerly in Yanyao, has now been relocated to the TOT offices in Phuket City, where its operations are now being overseen by American emergency services firm Kenyon International, whose CEO Robert Jensen is now in Phuket coordinating the effort.

The company has been involved in identifying the remains of numerous disasters, including the Bali Bombing and the attack on the World Trade Center.

Mr Jensen was quoted on Thai TV Channel 11 this morning as saying all the forensics teams involved had done good work.

The police takeover of the DNA sampling collection effort has angered the forensics team led by Khunying Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, Deputy Director of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, who earlier threatened to resign over the issue.

The move will likely lengthen the time it will take for some Thais to recover the remains of missing relatives.

K. Bhokin said Thais should first contact the district office in the location where they think the relative went missing as the first step in the process.

“After DNA samples are collected and analyzed in China, we will then check samples of the relatives’ DNA against the profiles of the dead bodies and look for matches,” he said.

The same process will apply to foreigners, though they should submit their DNA samples to Interpol’s DVI Center through their foreign ministries, he said.

K. Bhokin added that there are 3,254 people listed as missing, including 2,191 Thais and 1,063 foreigners. There are also some 430 children who were orphaned in the disaster in Thailand.

“We are still looking for bodies, but the search has become more site-specific,” he said, adding that on Wednesday 19 more bodies were recovered from the sea.

Phuket News
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