An estimated 230,000 – 280,000 lives – in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and even Somalia – were lost, with millions more directly and indirectly impacted all across the Southern Hemisphere.
Here in Thailand, according to official estimates by the government, 5,393 were confirmed dead, another 8,457 injured and 3,062 missing, presumed dead.
The main government -sponsored memorial event in Thailand will take place at the site in Khao Lak where the Marine Police Patrol Boat 813, washed in by the Tsunami, still sits, 800 metres from the sea.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has invited diplomats from 23 countries to join the event and a live broadcast through national and local media, and international media such as the BBC and CNN is also planned.
In Patong, the place in Phuket worst hit by the waves, there will be the traditional “Light Up Phuket” candle-lighting ceremony on Patong Beach, supported by OrBorJor Phuket and starting at 6.30pm.
Each year, thousands of people turn out to dig holes in the sand and place lit candles within to remember the tsunami victims.
Others lay flowers and offer prayers at temporary multi-faith altars near the beach.
Aside from the “Light Up Phuket” memorial event, a number of other activities are planned in Patong, at Loma Park, Royal Paradise Hotel and Jungceylon Shopping Centre between Dec 26-28.
The schedule includes live music on all three days from noon until late featuring Jazz by Dr. Prasert Khunthongchan, and international gospel sets showcasing 19 bands from 10 countries. Moreover, there will also be sand sculpture and drawing contests and a number of Thai cultural performances.
Andaman Sea Surf Phuket/Thailand, Surfing Thailand, Freedom Boardsports and the Phuket Lifeguard Club are organizing a “Paddle Out” memorial service on Friday morning for surfers.
Participants will assemble at Andaman Sea Surf School (opposite Phuket Graceland Resort) for registration from 8am. There will be floral wreaths, some paddle boards and free T-shirts provided for participants, but you can bring your own surf board and flowers.
The paddling – stand up and lie down versions – will start from 10 am, and include “circle of life” paddling, praying and flower-release rites at sea. More information can be found by calling Decha Sithidej on 089 973 2161
The Navy League of the United States had requested five years ago, and was given, the responsibility to maintain the wall and flags from 45 countries that lost citizens in the tsunami, which hang at the memorial wall.
This year a fresh coat of paint has been applied and many flags will be replaced with other minor maintenance to the flag poles on the wall completed.
The country flags will go up one week prior to December 26 and come down at the end of the year. The following is the schedule for the Mai Khao morning ceremony:
8am: Door open for ceremony
8.30am: Master of ceremonies asks attendees to be seated
9.05am: Director of the Mai Khao Administration Organisation Sarawut Srisakookam will open with a speech: “Ten Years in Memory of Tsunami”. All visitors – Islam, Buddhist and Christian – stand in mourning for one minute.
10.30am: Mr Sarawut will lay flowers in front of the memorial.
10.30am: All visitors will proceed to lay flowers in front of the Memorial.
Midday: The ceremony will conclude.
A documentary, Silent Waters, produced by Englishman Mike Thomas, will be screened in Kata at 7.30pm on Friday (26).
Mike, who was in Bangkok at the time the wave hit, was one of thousands who came down to help in the aftermath.
The experience has stayed with him ever since and earlier this year he returned to start looking for suitable stories to power a documentary.
Mike explains that the documentary, “is much more than a story about the tsunami”. It follows the recovery after the tsunami through the words of the Koh Phra Tong islanders, who still live very simple lives.
“They are content and fulfilled. They’re not stupid. They know that on the mainland children spend their time on their smart phones or tablets. On the island, the kids play together in the village.”
“There’s no electricity apart from some generators. They know that when mains power arrives the developers will follow.”
The documentary, which took four months to complete, also looks at the use, misuse and waste of relief funds after the tsunami.
The documentary will be screened in the UK on December 26 on the Community Channel, and will also be accessible via the BBC’s iChannel.
In Phuket, the screening will be at CC’s Hideaway in Kata, starting at about 7:30pm.
The film will also be screened on the 28th on Koh Phra Tong; most of the people there have not seen it yet. Admission to the screening in Kata will cost B100.
Anyone wanting to attend is asked to register via this link.
Another locally produced memorial documentary has been uploaded onto Youtube already.
It was produced by the Rotary Club of Patong, whose president, Brad Kenny commented: “This video is a tribute to all Rotary Club of Patong Beach members at that time who did a tremendous job in assisting so many; thousands of lives were touched by our club.
“Also to our Rotary members who were also victims, who suffered along with our victims’ families; cried, hugged, and buried or burned the dead together.
“Yet we all survived and our lives are forever enhanced with the spirit of helping others and the ultimate rewards of such.”
The video can be viewed by clicking here.
On Phi Phi Don, the larger island, from 8am to noon on the 26th, there will be an official multi-faith (Buddhist, Christian and Muslim) ceremony.
Members of the public government officials are invited to take part at the PP Princess Hotel (Moo 7 on Phi Phi Don). For more details, contact the Ao Nang OrBorTor on 075-637-146.