Police hunt suspected tsunami coffin thieves

PHANG NGA (Kom Chad Luek): Takuapa District Police are on the lookout for two former cemetery workers who confessed to stealing 11 70-kilogram coffins worth an estimated 400,000 baht from a storage facility at Bang Maruan Cemetery.

Cemetery manager Nitinai Sornsongkram, 54, filed a report with Takuapa Police on April 27 after discovering that 11 of 40 coffins, which were intended for tsunami victims, had gone missing.

Following police advice, K. Nitinai monitored workers at the cemetery and began to suspect two caretakers of stealing the coffins.

“I questioned the caretakers and one of them confessed to taking the coffins and selling them as scrap,” K. Nitinai said.

The thieves allegedly used an enclosed pickup truck with a high roof to take the coffins out of the cemetery.

“I didn’t want to file charges at first as we have been working together for a long time and I felt sorry for them. They asked for time to bring the coffins back, but they have not been returned so I will have to file charges against them,” he added.

The two suspects are currently at large.

“It wasn’t difficult for them to load the coffins onto the truck unnoticed because there has always been a high level of trust among the cemetery staff,” said K. Nitinai.

A local scrap dealer, identified only as “Montri”, said that scrap aluminum currently fetches about 70 baht per kilogram, but that no shop would be likely to accept a new, complete coffin as scrap.

At local rates, the 11 coffins would have fetched more than 50,000 baht as scrap.

“I just didn’t imagine that they would dare do such a thing,” said K. Nitinai.

The missing coffins were bought by Thailand Tsunami Victim Identification (TDVI) center with funds provided under an 88-million-baht joint donation by countries whose nationals perished in the disaster.

Phuket News

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