July 15, 2021
By Jiraporn Kuhakan
PATHUM THANI, Thailand (Reuters) – Dressed in a saffron robe, Thai monk Pongpetch Santijittho, climbs into a white protective suit and sprays disinfectant on a pair of rubber boots.
It is a ritual Pongpetch is going through daily at his temple in Pathum Thani on the outskirts of Bangkok, the epicentre of a wave of coronavirus infections that are killing dozens of people each day.
The temple used to hold cremations of about two or three people each month. Now, it is typically four or five each day, as Thailand’s longest-running outbreak worsens.
“I haven’t seen other monks in the temple for a while now because I’ve been busy cremating and collecting ashes from dusk until dawn,” Pongpetch said.
The temple’s two crematoriums have been increased to three. Pongpetch, 39, performs the funeral rites and has volunteers to help him carry the caskets.
The temple offers free cremations to those who died of COVID-19. Thailand reported a record 98 deaths on Thursday, among some 3,032 overall.
A woman among those cremated on Thursday had a single loved one attend her funeral. Six other family members were infected with the coronavirus and cried loudly as they watched the cremation live via a smartphone from their home.
“I understand that all the relatives who are losing their loved ones are sad because they cannot come to the funeral. I’m sending them support, and will try to do my best here,” Pongpetch said.
(Writing by Jiraporn Kuhakan and Martin Petty; Editing by Alison Williams)