In Thailand, candlelit vigils replaced traditional New Year revelry in a country where there was little to celebrate despite the date.
Remembering the dead and comforting the living, Thai people and Western tourists came together on the island of Phuket – one of the areas worst hit when the huge waves came crashing ashore nearly a week ago. Along the bar-lined Patong beach, Thai transvestites were out collecting for the victims. In the country as a whole the death toll now stands at 4,500, including at least 2,230 foreigners. At official celebrations, there were no fireworks either, just candles, white roses and prayers. Thailand’s interior minister and Australia’s ambassador to the country attended the huge ceremony on Phuket. Some resorts said the government had asked them to cancel celebrations and the traditional countdowns in Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai were also dropped.