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Officials find 2,000 fetuses at Bangkok temple

Nov. 20, 2010 - 21:55 By

BANGKOK (AP) — On the grounds of a Buddhist temple, dozens of white plastic bags lay in carefully arranged rows. Each sack was knotted at the top and contained the remains of a fetus.

Thai authorities found about 2,000 remains in the temple's mortuary, where they had been hidden for a year — apparently to conceal illegal abortions.

A strong stench had drawn police to the temple in Bangkok's old city Tuesday, and authorities searching the mortuary — where bodies awaiting cremation are normally kept — initially found more than 300 fetuses. They returned Friday to find more than five times that number, according to police Lt. Col. Kanathud Musiganont.

Rescue workers arrange bags containing dead fetuses found at the morgue of a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. (AP-Yonhap)

Health officials, police and charity workers counted the fetuses, placing each one in a white plastic bag bearing the charity's name in red Thai script and Chinese characters. The group is often involved in the handling of remains, including recovering bodies from accident scenes and organizing burials.

As the remains were laid out, Buddhist worshippers left offerings for the fetuses: milk and bananas to nourish their spirits in the afterlife.

Abortion is illegal in Thailand except under three conditions — if a woman is raped, if the pregnancy affects her health or if the fetus is abnormal.

Although Thailand is home to a huge and active sex industry, many Thais are conservative on sexual matters, and Buddhist activists especially oppose liberalizing abortion laws.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Friday that more must be done to prevent illegal abortions but that his government would not revise the laws. He said his government has discussed the matter and believed that "the existing laws are appropriate and flexible enough."

Several people have already been arrested in the case: two undertakers for hiding bodies to conceal the cause of death and an abortion clinic employee on charges of operating an unlicensed medical clinic and performing abortions. The undertakers could each be sent to prison for up to a year and fined 2,000 baht ($67). The clinic employee — who police said confessed she had delivered the fetuses to the morgue workers starting early this year — could face up to five years in jail and a fine of 10,000 baht ($333).

Suchart Poomee, 38, one of the undertakers being questioned, confessed Tuesday he had been hired by illegal abortion clinics to destroy the fetuses, police said. He said he had been collecting the fetuses since November 2009. It was not clear why they had not yet been cremated.

Police Col. Sombat Milintachinda said the fetuses found Friday seemed to have been hidden for a longer period of time than those found earlier in the week.

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanavisith said around 1 million Thai women get pregnant each year, with 60,000 suffering miscarriages and another 80,000 getting legal abortions. He gave no estimate for the number of illegal abortions.

Illegal abortion "requires efforts from both the government and the private sector to promote better understanding about sex among the Thai youngsters," Jurin said.

Suriyadeo Tripathi, the director of Thailand's National Institute for Child and Family Development, said young people were getting mixed messages, and sex education needs to be improved.

"On the one hand, you see many campaigns trying to promote safer sex, but on the other, a lot of people still strongly encourage abstinence and retain a stigma against premarital sex," he said.


충격, 태국 사찰에서 태아시신 2,000 여구 발견

태국 방콕 시내의 한 사찰 시체안치소 주변에서 이번주 초 태아 시신 300구 이상이 발견된 데 이어, 경찰이 19일 같은 장소에서 약 1천700여구를 추가로 찾아냈다.

 태국 경찰은 이미 다수의 태아 시신들이 발견된 장소에 대해 이날 다시 수색에 나서 당초 발견된 것보다 5배 이상 많은 태아 시신들을 찾아냈다.

   이들 태아 시신은 불법 낙태 수술 이후 이 장소에 약 1년 동안 숨겨져 온 것으로 경찰은 추정하고 있다.

   앞서 지난 16일 경찰은 방콕 방코램 지역에 있는 사찰 왓 파이 응언 주변에서 악취가 난다는 인근 주민들의 제보를 받고 태아 시신 348구를 발견한 바 있다.

   경찰은 또 태아 시신들을 숨긴 혐의로 장의사 2명을, 불법으로 낙태를 시술한 혐의로 간호사 1명을 체포했다.

   한편 태아 시신들이 발견된 소식이 전해지면서 많은 시민들이 우유와 바나나 등을 가지고 사찰을 방문해 이들의 넋을 기렸다.

   또한 방콕의 한 사찰에서는 이들을 추모하기 위해 오는 27일 종교의식을 가질 예정이라고 현지 언론 방콕 포스트가 20일 보도했다.

   태국은 여성이 성폭행을 당했을 때, 임신한 사람의 건강이 안 좋을 때, 태아의 상태가 비정상일 때 등 예외적인 경우에만 낙태를 허용하고 있으나, 매년 15만~20만명의 여성들이 불법 낙태시술을 받는 것으로 보건부는 추산했다.

   아피싯 웨차치와 태국 총리는 19일 "현재 존재하는 낙태 관련법은 충분한 융통성을 갖고 있다"며 정부는 관련법을 개정할 뜻이 없다고 밝혔다.    (연합뉴스)