Connect with us


Love, humanity ripples through Phuket tsunami memorial service

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: The devastating loss of hundreds of thousands of lives to the Indian Ocean Tsunami 10 years ago also brought a wave of humanity among the differing peoples of Phuket and the global community, Phuket Vice Governor Suthee Thongyam told those gathered at the Light Up Phuket memorial event on Patong Beach on Friday.

“It is a great honor to chair the Light Up Phuket event,” said Vice Governor Suthee. “We all realize that the waves took away things – peoples’ lives – that could never be replaced. We cannot even estimate the loss,” he said.

“However, in facing such a disaster, we discovered how much we cared for each other and that we would never leave each other to face such a dire situation alone.

“We were willing to help each other regardless of nationality, religion or language. It did not matter where we came from. This is the power of love and humanity… We faced the tragedy, but gained love and a way of healing the pain.”

V/Gov Suthee pointed out that much had been learned from the disaster.

“We now have a comprehensive, operational emergency-warning system. I urge everyone to enjoy their time here. We never know when a tsunami might come, but when it does come, any unusual [seismic] activity will be detected by our early-warning system,” he assured the gathered crowd.

“I would like to thank everyone for coming to this event to honor the victims and to ensure that they will never be forgotten.”

Memorial services in Phuket marking the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami began at the Tsunami Memorial Wall in Mai Khao at 8:30am, with Buddhist monks conducting a mass prayer, followed by a Muslim service and then a Christian service (story here).

Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong was unable to attend services in Phuket on Friday as he had been called to join the memorial event at Khao Lak, attended by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha and a host of international envoys.

Joining the Light Up Phuket memorial service at Patong was Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) President Paiboon Upatising and the international honorary consuls of Phuket, along with a turnout of hundreds of people.

The official death toll for Thailand from the disaster stands at more than 5,000, while the number of people still unaccounted for after the waves struck the Andaman coast remains at nearly 3,700.

Tsunami survivor Jeje Lerdsil, 25, joined her little daughter in lighting candles and placing them on the sand, as is the tradition at the Light Up Phuket event, in remembrance of that fateful day.

“I was at home with my mother that morning,” she said, with tears streaming down her face. “I was going to help my father open our beach restaurant at Kamala.

“My father called and told us that the sea looked weird, something he had never seen before. While we were on the phone, the line cut off. Suddenly people were running and shouting as big waves hit the beach.”

Fears that she had lost her father to the waves were laid to rest when he finally arrived at the family home some hours later.

“I was shocked. He said the waves washed him as far back as Phuket FantaSea, but luckily he managed to hold on to a coconut tree and survived,” Ms Jeje said.

“We were so happy that father was fine, but we lost everything: our restaurant, our rented house near the beach and our brand-new pickup truck.

“We now live in Phuket Town. We are scared of the waves and we do not want to live near the sea.”

Ms Jeje explained that she did not attend the Light Up Phuket memorial service the first year it was held, just one year after the tsunami.

“How could I? I couldn’t remove how bad it was from my mind. But I have attended the event every year since the second anniversary to honor those killed by the waves,” she said.

Swedish tourist Inghe Eric Ericsson, 60, was trapped on the first floor of a hotel near the Patong beachfront.

“People knocked on the door told me to leave the room, but I was on the first floor and stuck in my wheelchair,” he recalled.

“Water came flooding through the hotel, and people carried me upstairs to where we were safe. We had to stay there for two days without water or electricity.

“Now, I come back every year to join the memorial. Patong was a mess, but everything was okay by summer the following year.”

Somchao Khaitalay, 58, was working as a beach masseuse when the waves struck.

“I didn’t lose anyone in the waves, but my friends lost family members and one of my friends lost her leg when she was struck by a big piece of wood,” she said.

“When I saw the waves coming, I yelled out to an Australian woman, one of my customers on the beach, to run to high ground.

“I made it, but I never saw her again. I left Phuket five years ago, and, today, I came back for them.”

— Chutharat Plerin


Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Protests57 mins ago

Police to prosecute yesterday’s protesters for Covid-19 violation

Thailand2 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Pfizer vax approved, IATA testing vaccine travel pass, Covid Update | June 25

Thailand3 hours ago

Man wanted for attempted murder arrested on train

Phuket Sandbox July 1st


Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand3 hours ago

The list of high/medium/low risk countries for travelling to Thailand now

World4 hours ago

Rare, giant barking deer makes appearance in Cambodia

Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 hours ago

Anutin says health system won’t collapse despite shortages

World4 hours ago

Fire at Chinese martial arts school kills 18, mainly kids

Thailand5 hours ago

Man allegedly steals almost 300,000 baht from monk

Thailand6 hours ago

Illegal cigarette shipment busted, valued at 30 million baht

Thailand8 hours ago

Pair arrested for allegedly stealing prepaid phone cards worth 240 million baht, take home almost 150

Best of8 hours ago

Top 5 Indian Restaurants in Bangkok

Phuket9 hours ago

A Korean restaurant catches fire at a Phuket shopping centre

Best of9 hours ago

Top 10 Provinces to visit in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for emergency use in Thailand

World9 hours ago

1 dead 99 unaccounted for in Florida building collapse

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8