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Monday, November 22, 2010

2,000 Fetuses Found At Thai Buddhist Temple

2,000 Fetuses Found At Thai Buddhist Temple

BANGKOK — 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.

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."

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