Thai medical students scatter ashes of 'silent mentors' cadavers

BANGKOK: Thai medical students solemnly lowered hundreds of white bags holding the ashes and bones of cadavers into Bangkok’s main river on Tuesday (May 15), in a ceremony honouring the “silent mentors” who donated their bodies to science.

The students set off on an hour-long journey to the mouth of the Chao Phraya river in a wooden boat carrying the remains of more than 300 corpses whose bodies they had studied in classrooms at Chulalongkorn University.

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After an orange-robed monk recited Buddhist prayers, the uniformed students dropped coins and flowers into the water before lowering the cloth bags overboard.

A medical student lowers a bag containing the remains of cadavers into the river AFP/Romeo GACAD

“It is our last chance to say goodbye to our teachers. I learned a lot from them,” Phitchaya Tubunturag, a second-year student, told AFP.

Earlier this month the students took part in a campus ceremony infused with Hindu and Buddhist tradition to send the corpses off for cremation at temples around Bangkok.

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“The cadavers are our silent mentors,” added Dr. Montakarn Tansatit, a professor from the university’s medical faculty who joined the boat trip.

Finding bodies for aspiring doctors to study was once a difficult task in the mainly Buddhist kingdom, where most people are cremated.

Medical students pray on the boat during the ceremony AFP/Romeo GACAD

But it has become much easier since 2015, when a respected Thai monk, Luang Phor Khun, led by example and donated his body to science.

While many Thais keep the ashes of their loved ones in an urn at home, it is also becoming increasingly common for families to hire boats for scattering ceremonies on the Chao Phraya.


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