2000 Fetuses At Buddhist Temple


Associated Press

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 2000 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 5 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.

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:

  1. If a woman is raped
  2. If the pregnancy affects her health, or
  3. If the fetus is abnormal.

Athough 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 Abhistit Verjjajiva said Friday that more must be done to prevent illegal abortions but that his government would not revise the laws.

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.